Why are nuclear stress tests given?


Quick Answer

Nuclear stress tests are performed to explore causes of chest pain, determine if a patient is at high risk for developing heart disease, and monitor the success of treatments, such as angioplasty or heart surgery, states MedlinePlus. They are also sometimes done prior to a patient having surgery or beginning an exercise program.

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Full Answer

The results of nuclear stress tests help doctors diagnose coronary artery disease and evaluate the pumping function and size of the heart, explains MedlinePlus. Doctors also use nuclear stress test results to determine the appropriate treatment plan for patients with coronary artery disease. A patient with a normal nuclear stress test result most likely has normal blood flow through the heart. Abnormal results generally mean that the heart muscle is scarred or there is reduced blood flow to the heart, which may be caused by a blockage in one or more coronary arteries.

A nuclear stress test lasts several hours and is typically performed in an office or medical center, states MedlinePlus. In the 24 hours prior to the test, patients are instructed to avoid caffeine, including tea, coffee, soda, chocolate and certain pain medications. During the test, patients sometimes feel chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle cramps. It's best for patients to promptly report any symptoms to the person performing the stress test.

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