Nuclear stress test is used to measure the blood flow to the heart. This test is also known as myocardial perfusion scan. The nuclear stress scan helps in evaluating coronary heart disease (CAD), myocardial wall motion abnormalities and many other heart ailment. This is a non-invasive procedure that requires intravenous injections of the radioactive material. This radioactive material is called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. As radioactive material is used, one is often worried about nuclear stress test risks. This is safe procedure as the radioactive material used is in very minute quantities that are considered safe to use. However, we shall go into the details of some of the possible nuclear stress test side effects, one may develop.
Nuclear Stress Test Procedure
The nuclear stress test procedure involves injection of a tracer into the arm that will travel down to the heart. This tracer emits gamma rays that are detected by a special camera. This information detected is transferred to the computer that produces clear images of the heart. These images help the doctor detect any form of obstruction in blood flow or damage to cardiac muscles. The tracers used are thallium or sestamibi. Thus, it is also known as a thallium test or sestamibi test. This test may be performed after you exercise as certain problems show up only after the heart is under physical stress.
About to 4 hours before the procedure one should not smoke, drink or eat anything. Caffeine should be avoided for at least 24 hours. Pregnant women should not undergo this test. Speak to your doctor about any other additional precautions to followed to avoid nuclear stress test risks. The lab technician will tape wires to your body that are connected to the ECG machine. You will be asked to walk or run on a treadmill. Then, he will inject the radioactive tracer intravenously into your arm. Now, you will be made to lie down on the scanner bed with arms placed overhead. A large camera will be positioned above you to take multiple images. After about 30 minutes, when the heart rate is back to normal, more images will be taken. Thus, the doctor will have images of how blood flows during rest and the way the heart performs during exertion.
Nuclear Stress Test Side Effects
A nuclear stress test is a safe procedure and complications arising due to the procedure are very rare. However, some of the possible risks are as follows:
In extremely rare cases, the patient injected with radioactive tracer is found to be allergic to the compound. Thus, one may develop skin rashes during the nuclear stress test.
Exercising during the stress test can lead to abnormal heart rhythms in some people. However, these arrhythmias may disappear soon after one stops the exercise.
Low Blood Pressure
Exercising may also cause low blood pressure in some patients. The patient complains of fatigue and may even faint.
During the test, one may feel flustered or develop chest pain. These symptoms are usually temporary and will resolve after some time.
In very rare occasions, the patient exercising for the test may suffer from a sudden myocardial infarction. This is a very, very rare complication of a nuclear stress test.
These are some of the nuclear stress test risks that occur only in a few rare occasions. If one is worried about the adverse effects of getting injected with a radioactive material, then there is no reason to be worried. Studies have found this test does not carry any long-term or short-term effects due to the radioactive trace. After the test, you can eat and drink anything you like. It is better to take in plenty of fluids as it will help flush out the tracer from the body sooner. Nuclear stress test accuracy is same for men and women. However, obese or large breasts patients may sometimes get a false positive test. For further queries, consult your health care provider for more details.