Nuclear Stress TestingA stress test is a diagnostic test that evaluates heart function and is helpful in detecting coronary artery disease.

There are two types of stress tests:

  • An exercise stress test, which requires the patient to exercise on a treadmill to increase their heart rate and blood flow to the heart;
  • A pharmacological stress test, which requires that a medication be given through an IV to increase blood flow to the heart to "mimic" an exercise test. The pharmacological agent used by Mercer Medicine is called Lexiscan.

A stress test may include nuclear imaging, which involves taking two sets of pictures of your heart—one set taken at rest prior to exercising or the administration of a pharmacological agent such as Lexiscan, and the other set of pictures taken afterwards.

Nuclear stress testing helps your physician determine areas of your heart that are healthy and functioning normally, as well as areas of your heart that are not functioning properly. This requires injecting you with a small amount of radioactive substance through an IV. Images of your heart are then taken using a special camera that can identify the energy rays emitted from the radioactive substance within your body.

Exercise Stress TestWhat to Expect During Your Stress Test

  • You will have an IV placed in your hand or arm.
  • If you are having a nuclear stress test, an injection of a safe radioactive tracer will be administered at rest and again after the stress portion of your test.
  • Following a short wait, a special camera will take pictures of your heart. This usually takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to complete.
  • Next, you will have several small pads, called electrodes, placed on your chest. These pads are connected to an ECG, or electrocardiogram, that will monitor your heart rhythm.
  • You will then be asked to walk on a treadmill or you will be given a medication, depending on the type of test your doctor has ordered for you.
  • Following the stress portion of your test, you will be given a snack and a drink, typically crackers and soda or juice.
  • After a short wait, the technologist will then scan your heart for the second set of pictures. This will complete your stress test.