Nuclear Stress Test


The nuclear stress test is designed to look for the presence of coronary arteries that have become blocked enough to cause symptoms.

The test measures blood flow to your heart muscle both at rest and during stress on the heart. It can diagnose a heart problem in its early stage and give you precious time to get it fixed. Basically doctors examine your heart behavior when you exercise and while you rest.

A nuclear stress test usually involves taking two sets of images of your heart — one set during an exercise stress test while you're exercising on a treadmill or stationary bike, or with medication that stresses your heart, and another set while you're at rest. A nuclear stress test is used to gather information about how well your heart works during physical activity and at rest.

How does it happen?

The procedure is simple. The doctor will stick a number of electrodes on your chest. These electrodes will be attached to wires which are attached to an electrocardiogram.

Then, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill and simultaneously readings from the electrocardiogram will be noted down. Just before the exercise ends you will be injected with a harmless radioactive substance.

You will then be asked to go to another room and lie on an examination table. Now, above this table there will be a gamma-ray camera which will take pictures of your heart. These pictures of your heart will be examined by your doctor. The traces of radioactive substances which are now in your body are picked up by the camera and images of which are sent to another monitor for the doctor to examine.

After this you will be allowed to rest. You will not be allowed to eat or drink anything which has caffeine in it, also you must not eat chocolates.

After approx. 3 or 4 hours you will be injected with another dose of radioactive substance. Again after which you will have to lie on the examination table and again with the help of gamma-ray camera pictures of your heart will be taken. After the test you can eat and resume normal daily activities.

Who is supposed to undergo it?

You can go for a nuclear stress test if you suspect of any heart related problem. It is one of the most used methods of finding out if a person has heart issues. The test can be relatively expensive, but nothing is more expensive than your health.

You may be given a nuclear stress test if your doctor suspects you have coronary artery disease or another heart problem, or if an exercise stress test alone wasn't enough to pinpoint the cause of symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Nuclear cardiatic stress test may also be recommended in order to guide your treatment if you've already been diagnosed with a heart condition.

How much does a nuclear cardiatic stress test cost?

Any cardiac test or heart related diagnosing is not cheap. It is the same with a nuclear stress test as it involves expensive substances and equipment.

Prices start from $600 and may go up to $4000 depending on where you want to get it done.

Always do consult a professional cardiologist or your doctor in order to first understand if you really need to do such a test. They will be in a position to give you a more precise estimate of the cost.

How accurate is the nuclear stress test?

Studies report that the nuclear cardiac stress test has a sensitivity of about 85 percent and a specificity of about 95 percent for detection of coronary artery disease. That means that if you take 100 people with coronary disease and run this test, 85 of them will have a positive test. The other 15 will get a false negative test. At the same time, if you take 100 people without any coronary disease and run this test, 95 will have a normal result but 5 will have a false positive.

The problem is, there is no way to know for sure whether your test was really ok or if it was just a false negative test. That's why it is important for a doctor, who has taken your history and who has performed a full physical exam, to decide what to do with the result.


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