It’s been recommended that you undergo a nuclear stress test and you’re, understandably, a little apprehensive about the process. Despite the ominous name, rest assured that this diagnostic tool is long on answers and short on discomfort.

To give you a better idea, the team here at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates presents this brief guide to nuclear stress testing so you have a better idea about what to expect. Let’s take a look.

A look at your heart in action

If we suspect that there may be an issue with your cardiovascular system, there’s only so much information that we can gather when this system is at rest. When you come to see us for an appointment and we listen to your heart and run simple tests like measuring your blood pressure or an electrocardiogram (EKG), the results don’t paint the full picture.

Our goal with a stress test is to assess the function of your cardiovascular system when it’s in action and working hard. Think of it like test driving a car — a slow, 5 mph drive around a parking lot doesn’t provide nearly as much information as taking it out on the road for a real spin.

So, during your stress test, we place you on exercise equipment to get your heart rate up so that we can monitor function when you’re pushing it. (If you’re unable to use exercise equipment, we can use medicine to get your heart rate up to gather the same information.)

Using an EKG while you exercise, we can evaluate whether there are any cardiovascular issues, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), which is the most common form of heart disease.

An even better look at your heart through a nuclear stress test

With a nuclear stress test, we’re taking the standard stress test to another visual level. Before your test, we inject you with a trace amount of radioactive dye that makes your blood vessels and heart muscle more visible when we use imaging. During your nuclear stress test, we take images while your heart is at rest and then after it’s been put through the paces, either through exercise or with medicine.

Through nuclear stress testing, we can not only evaluate your coronary blood flow, but also pinpoint where any blockages are thanks to the dye contrast.

Undergoing your nuclear stress test

On the day of your stress test, you should arrive with comfortable clothes and appropriate shoes for exercise. We give you more customized preparation instructions regarding medications, but you should count on avoiding caffeine for 24 hours before the test and you shouldn’t eat for a few hours beforehand. We also ask that you don’t apply any lotion to your body that can interfere with the sticky electrodes.

When you arrive, we’ll insert an IV that contains the radioactive dye and take a picture of your cardiovascular system at rest. Then, we hook you up to monitoring equipment and get your heart rate up. After you reach your peak heart rate, we take another round of pictures.

And that’s it. Once we’re finished, you’re free to go, and we will make a follow-up appointment to discuss the results.

If you have more questions about what to expect during your nuclear stress test, please book an appointment online or over the phone with one of our offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, or Sun City Center, Florida, today.

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