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Nuclear Stress Testing


A nuclear exercise stress test is a diagnostic test used to evaluate blood flow to the heart.

During the test, a small amount of tracer material is injected into a vein through an IV. The amount of radiation exposure, from the tracer, is very small and poses NO health risk.

A special camera, called a gamma camera, detects the radiation released by the tracer to produce computer images of the heart. Combined with exercise, the test can help your Cardiologist determine if there is adequate blood flow to the heart during activity versus at rest.

At Polaris Heart Clinic, we perform nuclear exercise stress tests by the best heart specialists in Virginia when you have symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, to determine if you have coronary artery disease, how severe the condition is, and how to treat it.

Why it's done

Your heart doctor may recommend the test to diagnose coronary artery disease or determine the best treatment plan.

You may need a nuclear stress test if you have signs or symptoms of heart disease such as chest pain, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath. A test may also be used to determine and improve your treatment if you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition.

What you can expect

  • A nuclear stress test involves receiving the IV in the office, injecting a tracer material, then taking two sets of pictures of your heart — one while you’re at rest and another after exercise.

  • A nuclear stress test is done along with an exercise stress test; in which you walk on a treadmill. If you aren’t able to exercise, you’ll receive a medication (Lexiscan) through an IV that mimics exercise by increasing blood flow to your heart.

The radioactive tracer will naturally leave your body in your urine or stool. Drink plenty of water to help flush the tracer out of your system.

How you prepare

  1. Tests are performed Tuesdays to Thursdays, 3-hour duration

  2. Visit our office at  Woodbridge, VA

  3. Do NOT eat after midnight prior to your test. (This includes decaffeinated beverages, soda, tea, chocolate, coffee, and caffeine-containing medications.)

  4. No alcohol or nicotine consumption after midnight prior to your test.

  5. Wear two-piece clothing and sneakers/walking shoes. No shirts with metal snaps and no flip-flops or sandals.

  6. Please do not bring a guest along, as we can only accommodate patients having the test.

  7. You may resume your normal activities after your test


At Polaris Heart Clinic, your Cardiologist will discuss your test results with you. Your results could show:

  • Normal blood flow during exercise and rest. You may not need further tests.

  • Abnormal blood flow pattern or cardiac function. You may need further testing or treatment.

This test looks directly at the blood vessels supplying your heart and according to the result you may need a medication or sometimes another treatment like an angioplasty or stent placement.

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