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Stress Test


A thallium stress test, or nuclear stress test, is used to show how well blood flows to the heart muscle. The stress test determines:
  1. The extent of any coronary artery blockages.
  2. The cause of chest pain.
  3. The heart functioning of those individuals who have had heart attacks.
  4. The effectiveness of cardiac procedures done to improve circulation in the coronary arteries including stent placement and ballooning.
  5. The level of exercise that a person with or without heart disease that a person can safely perform.

How is the stress test performed?

The stress test is performed in the office. Upon arrival you will sign in for your appointment. A nuclear technician will call you from the waiting room and bring you into a treatment room. In this room, an intravenous (IV) line is started and medication is given. You will be escorted back to the waiting room for approximately 30 minutes to one hour. During this time, the medication that was given in the IV line will circulate through the body.

After waiting, you will be brought to the camera room. For this part of the test, you will sit on a chair that will rotate very slowly so that the first set of heart images will be taken. After these images are obtained the exercise portion of the stress test will occur.

You will be brought into the stress testing room and attached to a cardiac monitor. Your blood pressure will be monitored before, during, and after the test is completed. Depending on the type of stress test you have, it will determine the amount and type of exercise you perform. Some people walk on the treadmill and some people do arm exercises. This part of test does not last very long, approximately 20 minutes total time. Half way through the stress test, another injection is given in the IV line. Once the test is completed, you will be detached from the monitor, the IV line will be removed, and you will be escorted to the waiting room.

At this time, you can have a snack or just rest. Approximately 30 minutes to one hour later, you will be brought back to the camera room again for a second set of heart pictures. At this time, the test is completed and you can go home. At a follow-up visit, the physician will review your test results. The results are compiled by comparing the first set of heart pictures with the second set.

Risks of having the stress test

A Nuclear stress tests are very safe procedures. However, as with any procedure there is a risk of complications. People can experience abnormal blood pressure, chest pressure (angina), lightheadedness, fainting, palpitations, heart rhythm abnormalities, and in very rare instances, heart attack, cardiac arrest, and a 1 in 12,000 chance of death


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