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Your guide to nuclear stress testing from Champion Heart and Vascular Center
September 4, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by Champion Vascular Care
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Your heart is a muscle that beats continually throughout the day. Although its job is to deliver blood around the body, it depends on its own vascular system to function. When we suspect that one of our patients is suffering from coronary artery disease (CAD), we may use nuclear stress testing to find out whether blood is reaching their heart properly. At Champion Heart and Vascular Center, we offer nuclear stress testing throughout Dunn and the surrounding areas of North Carolina. If you've been referred for a nuclear stress test, you may find it useful to learn more about what's involved.

What is CAD?

As the most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD) arises when the blood vessels that supply your heart narrow or stiffen. Usually, this happens because plaque has gathered there. Your heart depends on a steady supply of blood to function. As a result, if the arteries supplying it narrow, it'll usually send you a warning in the form of pain. Your doctor may refer to this as angina or unstable angina. As CAD increases your risk of adverse cardiovascular events, it's in your interests to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan.

How does nuclear stress testing help?

Nuclear stress testing is an advanced diagnostic tool that allows us to look at your blood vessels and see how they're functioning. We can see your blood vessels in real-time, so it gives us an accurate idea of how bad your CAD is.

Usually, your doctor will order nuclear stress testing when you've demonstrated a range of symptoms that mean CAD is almost a certainty. For example, experiencing heart pain upon exertion and shortness of breath. The aim of nuclear stress testing is to grade your CAD according to universally-accepted medical grading systems. With the information your physician obtains, they can form a treatment plan that's appropriate for your grade of CAD.

What happens during the test?

Your test involves placing a radioactive tracer into your bloodstream through an IV drip. We'll then place ECG tracers on your chest so we can safely monitor your heart activity. You'll then begin walking on a treadmill and we'll steadily increase the pace. Every three minutes, we'll measure your vitals. Don't worry about how fast the treadmill will go as we'll always work within your personal limits in terms of exercise.

Following the exercise portion of the test, you'll lie down and we'll measure the flow of your heart using a gamma camera. As a result, we can look at how your body responds to exercise to identify the severity of your disease.

What happens when I get my results?

After you receive your results, your medical team will give you a CAD grading. Using this information, your doctor can provide you with a treatment plan. It's also important for your cardiovascular specialist and family doctor to have this information as it acts as a baseline. Using that baseline, they can alter your treatment plan or perform more investigations as your condition changes.

Should our team find that CAD isn't the problem, you may be referred for further tests. However, this depends on what is found during your nuclear stress testing and how your symptoms are presenting.

At Champion Heart & Vascular Center, we provide nuclear stress testing in Dunn, NC. Whether you're a patient who's due to see us or a referring physician, we're happy to answer your questions. To learn more about what we do, call us at 910 304 1212. You can also email us at manager@championvascularhealth.com, but please refrain from entering confidential information into the email.