I heard this morning from the cardiologist’s office and my appointment for my nuclear stress test and echocardiogram have been scheduled for Friday, August 3rd at 7:45 a.m. Here is the Mayo Clinic’s definition of what a nuclear stress test involves. It is more detailed than the normal stress test:
A nuclear stress test helps measure blood flow to your heart muscle at rest and during stress. It is similar to a routine exercise stress test but with images in addition to electrocardiograms.
During a nuclear stress test, a radioactive substance is injected into your bloodstream. This substance mixes with your blood and travels to your heart. A special camera or scanner which detects the radioactive material in your heart creates images of your heart muscle. Inadequate blood flow to any part of your heart will show up as a light spot on the images because not as much of the radioactive substance is getting there.
There are several types of nuclear stress tests, including:
Myocardial perfusion scan. During this procedure, you exercise on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. When you reach your maximum heart rate, you’re given the injection. Images are made of your heart shortly after exercise and also a few hours later. This test shows how well blood flows into the heart muscle and can detect narrowing of the coronary arteries (coronary artery disease).
Multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan. In this test, you receive the injection before exercising. Images are made of your heart before and after exercise. A MUGA scan shows the motion of the heart and how well it pumps out blood (ejection fraction).
If you’re unable to exercise, you may be injected with a medication that increases blood flow to your heart muscle simulating exercise for the test.
The echocardiogram is a test that uses soundwaves to create a moving picture of the heart, a sonogram. The picture is much more detailed than x-ray.
A trained sonographer performs the test, then your heart doctor interprets the results. An instrument that transmits high-frequency sound waves called a transducer is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart. The transducer picks up the echoes of the sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. (Source: MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia)
Echocardiogram works well for most patients and allows doctors to see the heart beating and to visualize many of the structures of the heart. Occasionally, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If so, the sonographer may inject a small amount of material (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.
Very rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be necessary.
If the echocardiogram is unclear due to a barrel chest, congestive obstructive pulmonary disease, or obesity, your health care provider may choose to perform a transesophageal echocardiogram, or TEE. With TEE, the back of your throat is anesthetized and a scope is inserted down your throat. On the end of the scope is an ultrasonic device that an experienced technician will guide down to the lower part of the esophagus, where it is used to obtain a more clear two-dimensional echocardiogram of your heart.