Nuclear Heart Scan

What is a Nuclear Heart Scan?

Also known as nuclear stress test or radionuclide scan. A nuclear heart scan is an imaging test that uses special cameras and a radioactive substance called a tracer to create pictures of your heart. The tracer is injected into your blood and travels to your heart.

Why do I need to have a Nuclear Heart Scan?

Your Cardiologist wants to see if there is adequate blood flow to all areas of your heart muscle.  The images enable your doctor to compare the blood flow through your heart while you’re resting, to the way it flows when your heart is pumping harder.

The nuclear stress test can help to diagnose a heart condition by giving vital information.

This information includes:

  • The size of the heart chambers
  • How well the heart is pumping blood
  • Whether there is any damage to the heart
  • If there is any blockage or narrowing of the coronary arteries that provide blood to the heart
  • The effectiveness of any current treatment.

The test can also help determine whether you should be referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program, and how hard you are safely able to exercise.

Is a Nuclear Heart Scan known as anything else?

Yes, it is also called a thallium stress test, a myocardial perfusion scan, and a radionuclide test.

How long will my Nuclear Heart Scan take?

About 3 hours.

Will I feel anything during my Nuclear Heart Scan?

Most nuclear medicine procedures are painless and are rarely associated with significant discomfort or side effects. The radiotracer will be given through an IV leur (“drip”) – you will feel when the needle is inserted. When the radioactive material is injected into your arm, you may notice a cold sensation.

Is there anything I need to do to prepare for my Nuclear Heart Scan?

It is important to wear comfortable clothing suitable for physical activity on the day of the test, including shoes for running or jogging, with non-skid soles.

You will need to fast, so no food or drink after midnight before the test. You should not have any drinks containing caffeine, including tea, coffee, and energy drinks, in the 24 hours before the test. Some painkillers and chocolate also contain caffeine.

Some medications, such as those for angina or asthma, can alter the test results, so it is vital for you to tell their physician exactly what medications you are taking, and only to stop them if the physician says so.

You must also tell the doctor if they have a pacemaker or defibrillator.

How long will it take for the results of my Nuclear Heart Scan?

The results will be sent to your Cardiologist within two weeks of your scan. Your Cardiologist will then discuss your results with you, at a follow-up appointment.

If there is normal blood flow during both rest and exercise, this suggests that the heart function is normal.

If there is normal blood flow during rest but abnormal blood flow during exercise, this would indicate that part of your heart muscle is not getting enough blood during physical or strenuous activity. The means you may have coronary artery disease.

Where will I have my Nuclear Heart Scan done?

Nuclear Medicine:

New Zealand Medical Imaging, 90 Mountain Road, Auckland.

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Ascot Hospital, Level 3
90 Greenlane East
Remuera, Auckland 1051
PO Box 17264,
Greenlane, Auckland 1546

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