Nuclear Cardiac Stress Tests

Modern Heart and Vascular Institute

Cardiovascular Specialist & Board Certified Cardiologist located in Humble, TX, Katy, TX & Cleveland, TX

Nuclear stress tests are diagnostic exams that measure blood flow in and around the heart. At Modern Heart and Vascular, our cardiologists use nuclear stress tests to locate the source of heart-related symptoms, evaluate the issue and guide your treatment plan.

What Is a Nuclear Cardiac Stress Test?


As the center of your cardiovascular system, your heart continuously works to keep oxygen-rich blood flowing throughout your body. The heart is a muscle that needs adequate blood to function properly. Poor circulation in and around your heart can have several causes and lead to serious complications.

If you’re experiencing insufficient blood flow to your heart, a nuclear stress test can help your doctor identify the source of the problem. Whether it’s a buildup of plaque in the arteries due to coronary artery disease (CAD) or another heart disorder, several conditions become easier to diagnose and treat with a nuclear stress test. These exams measure blood flow while the heart is at rest and during physical activity to provide a clear image of blood flow throughout the heart.

How Nuclear Stress Tests Work

Nuclear stress tests are advanced diagnostic tools that provide pictures of blood circulation in the heart. The exam typically lasts around two hours or more. At the start of the test, a technician will use an IV to inject a radioactive dye, known as a radionuclide, into your veins. After waiting several minutes for your heart to absorb the dye, the technician will take images of your heart at rest.

During an exercise stress test, you’ll likely walk on a treadmill, use a stationary bike or take a vasodilator to simulate exercise. Once you’ve reached your peak heart rate, you’ll receive another injection of the dye. Afterward, the technician will take more pictures of your heart. Your doctor will compare these before and after images to examine your circulation and heart health.

Potential nuclear stress test side effects include shortness of breath during exercise, an allergic reaction to the dye or chest pain. You can take precautions after a nuclear stress test — such as drinking enough water to flush the dye from your system — to ensure no serious side effects develop.

Purposes of a Nuclear Stress Test

The pictures from a nuclear cardiac stress test give your doctor a clear look at your heart’s condition, including weak areas. Blocked arteries don’t absorb the radioactive dye, appearing on the images as cold spots. With this data, doctors can determine the severity of plaque buildup or other damage and how it affects the heart at rest and during exertion.

Information from nuclear stress tests enables your doctor to diagnose CAD and estimate your risk of a heart attack. These exams also help physicians study your condition’s progression, guide treatment and evaluate your recovery.

Consult a Cardiologist Today

Whether used on their own or with other cardiac tests, nuclear stress tests are valuable tools for determining the source of your blood flow issues. To learn more about your options, contact Modern Heart and Vascular to schedule a consultation with a cardiologist today.

This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.