Nuclear cardiology studies assess blood flow of the heart using noninvasive techniques. These procedures assess how well the heart is pumping and can determine the size and location of a heart attack. Heart perfusion imaging is the most popular nuclear cardiology technique.
In this technique, the patient exercises and pictures are taken to examine the blood flow leading to the heart muscle. This exercise can be either in the form of walking on a treadmill or consumption of medication that causes a similar physiological response. The latter is known as a “chemical” stress test. Whatever the strategy, both tests provide similar information regarding the heart’s blood flow.
A minimal amount of nuclear tracer is introduced into the blood stream, during the rest and/or exercise portions of the test. A scanning camera detects the tracer traveling through the heart’s arteries. If any arteries are receiving a lesser amount of nuclear tracer, that leads healthcare providers to believe the artery is significantly blocked, and not receiving enough blood supply during physical exercise.
A proven “gold standard” procedure is heart perfusion, attached to nearly 40 years of clinical data. This procedure helps to identify those at increased risk for a heart attack, and therefore may be eligible for interventions such as heart surgery or angioplasty.