Nuclear Stress Test


Catherine Spader, RN

What is a 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.    

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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.  

Why is a nuclear stress test performed? 

Your doctor may recommend a nuclear stress test to see if any areas of your heart are not getting enough blood and oxygen when stressed by exercise. A nuclear stress test is not a routine screening test. It cannot diagnose all types of heart conditions