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What Can I Expect During a Nuclear Heart Scan?

What Can I Expect During a Nuclear Heart Scan?

Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States. It’s also one of the most treatable or preventable chronic diseases, highly amenable to changes in diet and other heart-healthy habits.

From early detection to treatment monitoring, the insights provided by nuclear imaging are instrumental in preserving heart health and preventing adverse cardiac events.

Our team at Premier Cardiology Consultants in New York City provides a wealth of expertise in diagnosing, treating, and preventing heart disease. Nuclear heart scans are one of the many tools we use to assess your heart health and develop treatment strategies that work.

What to expect during a nuclear heart scan

A nuclear heart scan or stress test includes the following steps:


Before the test, you may be asked to avoid eating or drinking for a few hours. You should also inform your Premier Cardiology Consultants provider about any medications or supplements you're taking, as certain medications, herbal products, and supplements may interfere with the test.

Injection of radiotracer

You'll be given a minimal amount of radioactive substance, called a radiotracer, through an intravenous (IV) line. The substance travels through your bloodstream and is taken up by the heart muscle.

The tracer provides very detailed images of blood flow, identifying blockages and other problems early. This enables timely intervention and preventive measures to mitigate the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events.

After the injection, you'll be asked to rest quietly for a short period, about 30 minutes. This allows the radiotracer time to circulate throughout your body and be absorbed by your heart muscle.

The radioactive tracers used in nuclear imaging are generally well-tolerated, and side effects are rare.

Resting images

You’ll spend several minutes resting comfortably on an exam table as computer-generated pictures, snapped by a gamma camera, provide high-definition images of the inner workings of your heart from different angles.

This high-definition imagery shows the distribution of the radiotracer in your heart muscle, providing detailed information about blood flow to areas of the heart at rest.

Stress testing

After the resting images, you'll undergo some form of stress to increase blood flow to your heart. This stress can be induced through exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike.

If you’re unable to exercise, medication can mimic the effects of physical exertion, providing information about how well your heart functions when stressed.

Stress imaging

Following the stress-inducing activity, we use the gamma camera to obtain more images of your heart. By comparing these to the resting images, your provider can determine how well blood flows through your heart at rest and identify any problematic changes during exercise.

Nuclear heart scans comprehensively evaluate cardiac function, including measurements of ejection fraction and ventricular performance. These measurements offer crucial insights into the heart's pumping ability and overall efficiency.

Areas of reduced blood flow or "cold spots" may indicate coronary artery disease or other heart conditions. This information enables your provider to tailor treatment plans according to your needs, optimizing outcomes and improving quality of life.


The entire procedure, including preparation, imaging, exercise, and post-test monitoring, usually takes one to two hours. After your Premier Cardiology Consultants provider reviews the results, you’ll receive information about undergoing further testing, treatment, or prevention strategies aimed at protecting your heart health.

Don’t ignore your heart health. Schedule a visit at Premier Cardiology Consultants today.

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