Stress tests monitor your heart’s electrical activity and are used to determine whether or not you have a heart complication. The difference between a standard stress test and a nuclear stress test lies in the method and equipment and, therefore, the depth of assessment of possible heart conditions.
Your doctor may request a stress test to evaluate your heart’s function and/or blood flow, and to help identify any heart abnormalities.
What Is a Stress Test?
Also called a standard exercise test, stress tests reveal how your heart functions under stress. These tests usually employ a treadmill or a stationary bike, but other methods can be used if you cannot use these devices.
The test gauges how well your heart can handle pumping more blood throughout your body, as it works harder during the test. Your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and how tired you feel are the key components of the test as they are monitored through an EKG.
During a stress test, you will be hooked up to the equipment to monitor your heart with the use of sticky patches of electrodes on your chest, legs, and/or arms. You will then slowly walk on the treadmill, and soon it will tilt as though you are walking along a gradual slope of a hill. If you feel discomfort at any point during the test, you may request to stop the test at any time.
The treadmill will adjust its speed to prompt you to walk faster. After walking faster, you will be asked by a technician to slow down for a couple more minutes, and then to sit or lie down so your heart and blood pressure may be checked.
You may also be asked to breathe into a special tube during the test. This will allow your doctor to evaluate how well you are breathing and what gases you are exhaling.
The EKG will show how fast your heart is beating and whether the rhythm is regular or irregular. It also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through your heart.
How Is a Nuclear Stress Test Different?
A nuclear stress test is very similar to a regular stress test, except it also includes imaging of your heart and radioactive dye in your veins. This test takes pictures of blood flow to your heart by first injecting radioactive dye (radiopharmaceutical or radiotracer) into your bloodstream before the images are taken.
Images of your cardiac activity are then taken at two stages: while you are at rest, and when you are exercising. The pictures will show how much of the dye reached various areas of your heart during the two stages.
During a nuclear stress test, a technician will insert an intravenous (IV) line into your arm and will inject the radiotracer, which may feel cold when first injected. Once your body absorbs the tracer, you will be asked to lie down to have the first set of images taken. After this, the same process as a standard stress test is followed.
Imaging stress tests tend to detect congenital heart disease and can also predict the future risk of heart attack better than standard, non-imaging stress tests.
Heart Diagnostics and Treatment in South Carolina
In both the standard stress test and the nuclear stress test, your heart activity will be monitored. Consult with your physician to determine which test is more suitable for you. The right diagnosis is crucial and is the start of the healing process.
At SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation, we offer the nuclear cardiac stress test and many other diagnostic services at our clinic in Irmo, South Carolina. If you have any questions about nuclear stress tests or any of our other services, please call us today at (803) 749-1111 or request an appointment online now. We look forward to seeing you here.