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What to Expect During Your Nuclear Stress Test

What to Expect During Your Nuclear Stress Test

If you’re experiencing chest pain, heart palpitations, or other potentially worrisome cardiovascular symptoms, and you want to find out what’s going on, the first stop on the diagnosis trail is usually the stress test. This test is a relatively painless and easy tool for evaluating the function of your heart and blood vessels when they’re put through their paces.

Here at Louisiana Heart and Vascular, interventional cardiologist Dr. Farhad Aduli and our team rely a good deal on stress testing as a frontline diagnostic tool. It’s all well and good to analyze your cardiovascular system at rest, but studying this system while it’s hard at work paints a much clearer picture. 

If you’re wondering what to expect during a nuclear stress test, here’s a brief description. 

Preparing for your nuclear stress test 

There’s not much you need to do to prepare in advance, but we may have you limit anything that can impact your results, such as caffeine, certain medications, and food. Rest assured, we supply you with any instructions beforehand. 

On the day of the test, you should wear comfortable clothing, because you’ll be doing a little exercise while we monitor your cardiovascular activity. You also shouldn’t apply any lotions or creams, because we'll be attaching sticky patches called electrodes to your body. 

Taking your nuclear stress test 

When you arrive, we insert an IV line into your arm as you're sitting up or laying down. Then we inject a radiotracer into your bloodstream. This tiny amount of radioactive material allows us to create imaging of your heart and blood vessels so we can evaluate how your blood flows in your coronary arteries. After a few minutes we then take some images. your blood flow. Once the radiotracer reaches the cells in your heart, we take some images. 

After we take these pictures, we attach the electrodes to your body, typically to your chest, arms, and legs. We may need to shave the hair in some of these areas so that the electrodes adhere correctly. These electrodes are connected to an electrocardiogram, which records the electrical activity in your heart. We will also may also place a cuff on your arm so we can measure your blood pressure. 

Once you’re hooked up, we place you on a treadmill an exercise machine and slowly increase the speed at which you walk. We also slowly increase the incline which causes your heart to beat faster. ramp up the intensity of the exercise. While you are walking we measure your BP and watch your heart rate and EKG. We ask you to walk as long as you can so we can get a good idea of your exercise capabilities. Once you say you are done, we slow down the machine and allow your heart rate to return to baseline. We measure baseline We measure your vitals along the way and take pictures of your cardiovascular system at work. Once you reach your peak intensity, we slowly wind down the exercise and evaluate how well you’re able to recover from the effort. 

Of course, if at any time you feel any discomfort, please let us know and we’ll adjust the test.

After your nuclear stress test 

Once you’re done with your nuclear stress test, we remove the electrodes and the IV line and sit down with you to discuss your results. If we find anything of concern during your stress test, we may suggest more testing or a treatment plan. 

Bear in mind that nuclear stress testing is not only an initial diagnostic tool. We may ask you to undergo another round of testing after we start you on a treatment protocol to assess how well the treatment is working. You are then ready to leave the office. You will be given a return appointment, where you will be able to sit down with a provider and go over the results of your test. At that appointment, you and your provider will come up with a plan of action designed specifically for you. 

If you have more questions about what to expect during a nuclear stress test, call 985-231-5713 or book an appointment online with Louisiana Heart and Vascular today. We’re located in Covington, Louisiana, and we also serve patients from Mandeville and Slidell.

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