A myocardial perfusion scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging test. This means that a tiny amount of a radioactive substance, called a radioactive tracer is injected during the scan to help show the tissue under study, in this case, the heart.
A stress myocardial perfusion scan is used to assess blood flow to the heart muscle when it is stressed. The heart is usually “stressed” from exercise. But, if you are unable to exercise, the heart can be stressed by taking a certain medication that increases your heart rate as it would during exercise.
After the radioactive tracer is injected, a special type of camera is used that can detect the radioactive energy from outside the body. The camera takes images of the heart during stress and again later at rest. The two sets of images are compared.
On the scan, the areas of heart muscle that do not absorb the radioactive tracer look different from the areas that do absorb it. The areas that absorb the tracer are healthy. The areas that do not absorb the tracer are damaged due to decreased blood flow. The damaged areas may be called “cold spots” or “defects.”
Possible reasons a stress myocardial perfusion scan may be done include, but are not limited to:
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend a stress myocardial perfusion scan.
Risks of the scan may include:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider prior to the procedure.
Certain factors may interfere with or affect the results of this test. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
A stress myocardial perfusion scan may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare providers practice.
Generally, a stress myocardial perfusion scan follows this process:
Exercise myocardial perfusion scan:
Pharmacologic myocardial perfusion scan:
Procedure completion, both methods:
Be sure to move slowly when getting up from the scanner table to avoid any dizziness or lightheadedness from lying flat for the length of the procedure.
You will be instructed to drink plenty of fluids and empty your bladder frequently for 24 to 48 hours after the test to help flush the remaining radioactive tracer from your body.
The IV site will be checked for any signs of redness or swelling. If you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you return home, you should notify your healthcare provider as this may be a sign of infection or other type of reaction.
Your healthcare provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation. If the perfusion scan indicates you may have a serious or life-threatening cardiac disease, your healthcare provider may talk to you about a same-day cardiovascular procedure.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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