What is a Cardiac Stress Test?
A cardiac stress test helps you and your doctor learn more about how your heart is working. A cardiac stress test with images use a radioactive tracer that enters your heart to show blocked arteries or other damage. It allows us to take images of blood flowing in your heart. We take images of your heart at rest and after your heart rate has increased.
A cardiac stress test with images is a type of nuclear medicine exam.
A Note About TracersWe use the lowest dose of radioactive tracer to get the highest quality images. The radiation risk is very low compared to potential benefits.
Types of Stress Tests
Stress Test with Exercise and Images
- You exercise on a treadmill to raise your heart rate and blood pressure. We give you a radioactive tracer through a thin tube inserted in your arm (an intravenous or IV line).
Stress Test with Medicine and Images
- Instead of making your heart pump harder with physical exercise, we give you a medicine that makes your blood flow like it does while you exercise. We give you this medicine along with a radioactive tracer through a thin tube inserted in your arm (an intravenous or IV line).
Stress Test with Exercise (No Images)
- You exercise on a treadmill to raise your heart rate and blood pressure. This test takes about 45 minutes. It does not use imaging or a radioactive tracer.
How to Prepare for a Stress Test with Imaging
A cardiac stress test with imaging takes about two to three hours.
- When to Arrive - Please arrive 30 minutes before your appointment.
- Eating & Drinking 12 Hours Before Your Test - Do not have any food or drinks that have caffeine such as chocolate, coffee, tea or soft drinks.
- Eating & Dring 3 Hours Before Your Test - Do not eat or drink anything. Only sip water with medicines that your doctor says are okay to take.
- Medicines - Ask your doctor how to take your medicines before the test. You may need to take a medicine later than you normally do.
- Diabetes - Check with your doctor to see if you should take your diabetic medicines or change your daily insulin dose.
- Clothing - Please wear walking shoes and a comfortable two-piece outfit.
Division of Nuclear Cardiology
The Division of Nuclear Cardiology at Mass General provides our stress testing services in partnership with the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center. Every stress test in jointly jointly read by a radiologist and a cardiologist who are specially trained in nuclear medicine.
- Co-Director, Cardiac MR PET CT Program