What Is the Thallium Stress Test?


Quick Answer

According to Healthline, the thallium stress test is a type of nuclear imaging test which shows the flow of blood into the heart while at rest and during exercise. In this procedure, the radioisotope thallium is administered intravenously, then settles into the heart muscle to identify any abnormal spots.

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Full Answer

During a thallium stress test, the provider inserts an intravenous line on one side of the elbow. He then injects a radiopharmaceutical medicine through the intravenous line, and the patient waits for 15 to 40 minutes, states Healthline. A special nuclear camera then scans the heart to show how the substance has travelled through the blood into the heart, indicates MedlinePlus.

To prepare for a thallium stress test, the patient should wear comfortable clothes and shoes for exercising. Additionally, he must fast after midnight and avoid caffeine and pain relievers 24 hours before the test, notes MedlinePlus. The doctor may inquire about the medications the individual is taking since some medications may interfere with the test results, states Healthline.

Healthline explains that a physician may require a thallium stress test if she suspects that a patient is receiving inadequate blood flow into the heart when under stress, experiencing chest pains or suffering from worsening angina or if he has had a previous heart attack. This test is also performed to check whether medications are working well, as well as to determine the success of a surgical procedure and whether the heart is in good enough condition to allow an exercise program.

According to Healthline, this type of imaging test can show the heart's ventricular function, or how well the heart pumps blood; myocardial perfusion, or how effective the coronary arteries are at supplying blood to the heart; the size of the chambers of the heart; and whether or not the heart muscle has been damaged in a previous heart attack. Patients who undergo a thallium stress test normally feel a stinging sensation as the medication is injected and experience a warm feeling afterwards. Some patients also experience nausea, headache and heart palpitations.

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