Nuclear Stress Test
and Thallium Stress Test –
What You Need To Know
These are the most important things you need to know about a nuclear stress test, also known as a thallium stress test or a thalium stress test.
This test is different to a Stress echo / stress echocardiogram which uses ultrasound and doppler technology to get a 3-D image of the heart.
A nuclear stress test measures the blood flow to the heart, while your heart is both under stress and at rest. Radioactive dye is injected through an i/v to measure blood flow to the heart. A gamma ray camera (similar to an x-ray machine) takes pictures of the dye’s journey through the bloodstream and to the heart.
A nuclear stress test is usually ordered after you have taken a standard exercise test, but need further investigation. A standard exercise test is basically the same procedure, but without the nuclear dye or imaging. Just the heart rate and blood pressure is measured in this case.
I often find in my aura readings that I can see blocked arteries as emotional blockages that affect the heart chakra. Just as with your physical body, the blood can’t get to your heart organ; in your energy body, the essential energy (or life force) needs to be able to reach all your chakras to maintain energetic health. This is an amazing and very important link between physical and spiritual health.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke for two hours before
- Take all medication as usual unless your doctor advises otherwise
- Dress comfortably – remember, exercise is involved.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your health background and how often you exercise.
Electrodes are stuck to your legs, chest and arms. These electrodes are connected to a machine that measures electrical signals that trigger heartbeats. You will also wear a cuff to measure your blood pressure during the test.
The exercise usually involves walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. Speed and incline (if on a treadmill) or resistance (if on a bike) increases as the test progresses.
The Injection of Radioactive Dye
The length of time that you exercise depends on how long it takes for your heart rate to reach a target. On average it takes between 8 and 12 minutes.
At this point, the exercise stops. You will most likely go into another room, where the radioactive dye will be injected.The gamma ray camera takes pictures of the dye’s progress to the heart.
You will then be given a couple of hours to recover, after which the dye will be injected again while your heart is at complete rest.
Nuclear Stress Test Side Effects
- People sometimes feel dizzy or faint - due to the exercise involved
- Arrythmia (heart beating too fast, too slow or ‘out of time’) due to exercise
- Feeling flushed – due to medication to stress the heart if exercise isn’t possible
- Chest pain – due to medication to stress the heart if exercise isn’t possible
Nuclear Stress Test Results
The Mayo Clinic says the most common results are:
- Normal blood flow during exercise and rest. This is most likely good news, and you can probably rule out coronary heart disease. It’s unlikely that any further tests will be needed.
- Normal blood flow during rest, but not exercise. In this case, the strenuous activity, which places stress on the cardiovascular system, may be highlighting a blockage in an artery.
- Low blood flow during rest and exercise. There might be a number of blockages preventing blood from getting to your heart. Most of the time treatment for cardiovascular disease will be recommended.
- Lack of radioactive dye in parts of your heart. This means you have damaged areas in your heart, most likely caused by a previous heart attack.
To back up the results of a nuclear stress test, further tests may be a required if low or zero blood flow appears to be an issue. These other tests may include an angiography (to look at the blood vessels within your heart).
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