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What is a nuclear stress test?

Nuclear Stress Test

A nuclear stress test combines imaging technology, small amounts of radioactive material, and an exercise stress test to diagnose and monitor heart problems. Your doctor may use a nuclear stress test to diagnose coronary artery disease and assess damage from a heart attack or other heart problems. A nuclear stress test can also show how well your heart pumps blood.

A nuclear stress test, sometimes called a thallium stress test, is an important test because some heart problems can only be seen when the heart is under stress from exercising. A nuclear stress test also provides important information about how the heart is functioning. Other imaging methods, such as X-rays and CTs, do not show how the heart responds to stress.    

A nuclear stress test is only one method to monitor and diagnose heart conditions. Discuss all of your testing options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.  

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 14, 2013

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Medical References

Exercise Stress Test. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Exercise-Stress-Test_UCM_307474_Article.jsp. Accessed June 13, 2013.
Isotope Stress Test. HeartSite.com. http://www.heartsite.com/html/isotope_stress.html. Accessed June 13, 2013.
Nuclear Medicine Imaging. American Society of Radiologic Technologists. http://www.asrt.org/docs/default-source/patientpages/asrt2011_nucmed.pdf?sfvrsn=2. Accessed June 13, 2013.
Nuclear Stress Test. HeartHealthyWomen. Org. http://www.hearthealthywomen.org/tests-diagnosis/nuclear-stress-test/nuclear-stress-test.html. Accessed June 13, 2013.
Stress Nuclear Study. American College of Cardiology. http://www.cardiosmart.org/heartdisease/cttvideo.aspx?id=884. Accessed June 13, 2013.
Types of Stress Testing. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stress/types.html. Accessed June 13, 2013.
What Is a Nuclear Heart Scan? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/nscan/. Accessed June 13, 2013.
What Is an Electrocardiogram? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Accessed June 13, 2013.

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