A cardiac perfusion scan measures the amount of blood in your heart muscle at rest and after your heart has been made to work hard.
During the scan, a camera takes pictures of your heart after a radioactive tracer is injected into a vein in your arm. The tracer travels through the blood and into your heart. As the tracer moves through your heart, areas that have good blood flow absorb the tracer. Areas that do not absorb the tracer may not be getting enough blood or may have been damaged by a heart attack. The pictures show this difference.
Two sets of pictures may be made during the test. One set is taken while you are resting. Another set is taken after your heart has been made to work harder (called a stress test). The heart can be stressed by using medicine or exercise. This information is about using exercise to stress the heart.
This test is also known by other names, including myocardial perfusion scan, myocardial perfusion imaging, thallium scan, sestamibi cardiac scan, and nuclear stress test.
The test is often done to find out what may be causing chest pain or pressure. It may be done after a heart attack to see if areas of the heart are not getting enough blood or to find out how much your heart has been damaged from the heart attack.
This test takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
The stress scan is done in two parts. In many hospitals, you first have the resting scan. You then exercise to make your heart work harder and you have another scan. Sometimes the stress scan is done first.
You most likely will either walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. During this test:
You will then have another resting scan. See the "Resting or baseline scan" section.
If a resting scan had not been done before the exercise scan, you may be asked to return to get this scan on another day or a few hours later.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
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Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.
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Current as of: May 6, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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