What is nuclear cardiology testing?
Nuclear cardiology tests safely take pictures of the heart.
During a nuclear cardiology test, a very small amount of radioactive tracer (radionuclide) is injected into a vein and is taken up by the heart. A very sensitive gamma camera then takes still pictures and movies of the heart with rest, exercise, or medication-induced stress testing.
These cardiac images help to identify coronary heart disease, the severity of prior heart attacks, and the risk of future heart attacks. These highly accurate measurements of heart size and function and amount of heart muscle at risk of damage enable cardiologists to better prescribe medications and select further testing like a coronary angiogram, the need for angioplasty and bypass surgery, or devices to optimize treatment outcomes.
What are nuclear cardiology tests used to evaluate?
- The function of your heart: How well your heart pumps blood.
- The flow of blood to the heart muscle: Is there muscle damage from prior heart attack or other cause, and whether or not your arteries are narrowed or blocked from coronary artery disease.
- Whether chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue is due to heart disease.
- Whether you have silent heart disease with one or more coronary risk factors (high blood pressure, smoking history, diabetes, kidney disease, family history of a parent or sibling with heart disease; post-menopausal, high cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity or prominent belly fat).
- What possible treatments are best for your heart:
- Are medications needed for heart disease?
- Is a heart catheterization advisable?
- Will angioplasty, stents, and / or bypass surgery likely be helpful to improve clinical outcome?
- The effectiveness of lifestyle interventions (diet and exercise), medications and / or treatments like angioplasty, stents and bypass surgery to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.
Myocardial perfusion tests are used to determine if you are at an increased risk for heart attack or if you may need heart surgery.
Ventricular function studies provide information on how well the heart is pumping.
PET scans provide gold standard information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries leading to the heart, cardiac function, and viability assessment.
Resting myocardial perfusion scan is a test done at rest to reveal areas of heart damage or acute reduction of heart muscle blood flow.
MUGA scans show how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heart beat.