Nuclear Imaging Tests

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Cardiovascular services are provided at our main facility at Cherry Hill and at multiple locations in King, Snohomish, Clallam and Grays Harbor Counties.

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With nuclear-imaging tests, your doctor can check the blood supply to your heart and see how well your heart works. The tests usually involve injecting a tracer into a vein. A tracer is a small amount of radioactive material that can be traced through your bloodstream to your heart muscle. A special camera that can see the tracer is then used to take pictures of your heart.

What Kinds of Nuclear-Imaging Tests Are There?

There are several kinds of nuclear-imaging tests. Some of them include:

  • Cardiac nuclear stress test. The heart is scanned at rest and after exercise, to help physicians assess blood flow to the heart and determine the heart’s size and pumping ability.
  • Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), which takes three-dimensional pictures of your heart to show blood flow. This test is used to diagnose or assess coronary artery disease.
  • Multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan, which captures images of the heart’s chambers and major blood vessels to evaluate their pumping function.

How Are These Tests Performed?

One of the first steps in all of these tests involves injecting the tracer into a vein. Electrode patches, which are connected to a heart monitor, are placed on your chest to check your heart rate. Then, while you are lying flat on a table, a large camera is placed over your chest to take pictures of your heart.

Next, if your doctor wants to see how your heart acts when you are physically active, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. If you can't exercise, medicine that can raise your heart rate will be injected into one of your veins. A second tracer may be used, and more pictures will be taken.

What Will I Feel During the Exam?

The test should not cause discomfort, but you may feel tired if you take the exercise test. The medicine used to raise the heart rate can make some people feel dizzy or weak. Additionally, some people with sensitive skin have reported slight irritation from the electrode patches; skin cream or lotion can help reduce irritation after the patches are removed.