As one of the most valuable diagnostic tools for coronary artery disease, nuclear stress testing can uncover a lot of information about your cardiovascular system, including your risk of having a heart attack or other cardiac event.
A nuclear stress test offers detailed insight into how well your blood flows into your heart, both at rest and under exertion. At ECCA in Manchester, Hartford, and South Windsor, Connecticut, our cardiac specialists perform nuclear stress testing on a regular basis.
Here’s what this simple test can reveal about your health.
Nuclear stress testing 101
A nuclear stress test combines a small amount of radioactive dye with a sophisticated imaging machine to find out if your heart receives enough oxygen-rich blood when you’re resting as well as when you’re exerting yourself.
Also known as myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI), this painless test is a lot like a conventional stress test, but with the addition of a radioactive tracer that essentially highlights your heart and arteries. This helps expose a more detailed picture of your cardiovascular system.
What nuclear stress testing shows
The team at ECCA usually recommends a nuclear stress test when a regular stress test hasn’t been able to sufficiently detect the cause of symptoms like intermittent chest pain or shortness of breath. For patients who have already been diagnosed with a heart condition, nuclear stress testing can help determine the best treatment approach.
Nuclear stress testing reveals important details about your heart and your arteries, including:
- How well your heart pumps blood
- How your heart handles physical activity
- The size of your heart’s chambers
- Whether your arteries have blockages
Because nuclear stress testing also reveals the presence of damaged heart tissue, it’s possible to determine if you’ve had any minor heart attacks you weren’t aware of previously. The test also makes it possible to measure the extent of tissue damage caused by known heart attacks.
Nuclear stress testing results
The results of your nuclear stress test show whether or not your heart is working properly when you’re at rest, active, or both.
Normal results under exertion and at rest
Completely normal nuclear stress test results mean you have sufficient and unrestricted blood flow to your heart, both when your heart is at rest and pumping normally, and when it’s under exertion and pumping faster.
Normal results usually mean there’s little worry about coronary artery disease. Unless you have persistent symptoms, you probably won’t require any further testing.
Abnormal results only under exertion
If the test reveals that your heart is pumping normally and receiving sufficient and unrestricted blood flow only when it’s at rest, it means that your heart isn’t getting the blood supply it needs when it’s under stress or working harder.
This result usually indicates that there’s some level of coronary artery disease or blockage. Next steps depend on your medical history and the specific details your results reveal.
Abnormal results under exertion and at rest
Getting an abnormal result from both phases of your nuclear stress test means that the flow of blood to your heart is inadequate and obstructed, regardless of your level of activity.
This kind of restricted blood flow and weak heart pumping action usually implies a significant degree of coronary artery disease; it may also imply that part of your heart has been damaged by a previous heart attack or is permanently deprived of blood because of a major blockage.
Beyond nuclear stress testing
Remember, the overall goal of nuclear stress testing is to find out vital information about the health of your heart as well as your arteries. No matter what your results happen to be, the team at ECCA explains their findings, addresses your concerns, and, if applicable, recommends a cardiac intervention treatment plan to manage or improve your cardiovascular health.