The objective of a nuclear exercise stress test is to raise the heart rate by walking on a treadmill and to take special images of the heart when it is exercising or being stressed followed by additional images of the heart taken the following day when the heart is at rest.
How to Prepare for the Test:
The nuclear cardiac stress test is a 2-day test. one day is the stress portion and the other day is the rest portion.
Stress Portion (Usually Day One):
- Do not eat or drink for four hours before test.
- Avoid caffeine (or decaffeinated beverages) for 24 hours prior to the test
- Plan to wear comfortable walking clothes and shoes
- Bring a list of medications that you are currently taking
- You may be asked to not take some of your medications. It is important to check with your doctor to determine which medications are okay to take before the test.
- Plan to be at the first day of testing (the stress portion) for approximately 3 hours
Rest Portion (Usually Day Two):
- You may eat, drink and take your medicine unless otherwise notified by your doctor before the resting portion of the test.
- Wear comfortable clothing, the pictures are taken while you lay on a table.
- Plan to be at the second day of testing (the rest portion) for approximately 1 ½ hours
What to Expect During the Test:
Day One: Stress Portion
A cardiac registered nurse and cardiologist are present during the test. An intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm. Small adhesive pads are placed on the upper body to monitor heart rate and EKG as you walk on the treadmill. The treadmill progresses through a series of stages, gradually increasing in speed and incline. The treadmill can be slowed down or stopped at any time during the test. Communicate how you are feeling to the technician and cardiologist during the test so the treadmill can be adjusted accordingly if necessary. Blood pressure, heart rate, and EKG are frequently monitored before, during and after the test. As you walk on the treadmill the nuclear tracer will be injected through your IV line. After the treadmill portion of the test is complete you will have a 45 minute break during which you may eat and drink in the cafeteria. The imaging takes approximately 20 minutes. The entire test takes approximately 3 hours.
Day Two: Rest Portion
At the second day of testing you will arrive back in Radiology, an IV will be placed in your arm and the nuclear tracer will again be injected. After a 45 minute break another set of images will be taken. These images are compared to the images taken on the first day of testing when your heart was being stressed. There is no treadmill involved for the resting portion of the test.
After the Test
As soon as the test is complete, you may return to your normal routine, including eating, drinking, driving, etc. unless otherwise indicated. You will be given a specific time to arrive back at the hospital the next day for the second part of the test.