What is Nuclear Heart Scan used for?

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Feb 22, 2018
Quick Bites

  • Nuclear heart scan is used to diagnose heart conditions
  • It checks how blood is flowing to the heart muscle
  • The diagnosis looks for damaged heart muscle
  • The test determines how well your heart pumps blood to your body

A nuclear heart scan is a diagnostic procedure that allows health professionals to retrieve important information about the health of your heart. In a nuclear heart scan, a safe, radioactive substance called a tracer is injected into your bloodstream through a vein. The tracer travels to your heart and releases energy. Special cameras outside of your body detect the energy and use it to create pictures of your heart.

Read: What are the Types of Nuclear Heart Scan?

Nuclear heart scans are used for three main purposes:

  • Blood flow – It checks how blood is flowing to the heart muscle. If part of the heart muscle isn't getting blood, it may be a sign of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD can lead to angina, heart attack, and other heart problems. When a nuclear heart scan is done for this purpose, it's called myocardial perfusion scanning
  • Heart muscle – The diagnosis looks for damaged heart muscle. Damage may be the result of a previous heart attack, injury, infection, or medicine. When a nuclear heart scan is done for this purpose, it's called myocardial viability testing
  • Heart function – The test determines how well your heart pumps blood to your body. When a nuclear heart scan is done for this purpose, it's called ventricular function scanning

Read: What are the Risks of a Nuclear Heart Scan

In the procedure, two sets of pictures are taken. The first set is taken right after a stress test, while your heart is beating fast. During a stress test, you exercise to make your heart work better and beat faster. If you can't exercise, you may be given medicine to increase your heart rate. This is called a pharmacological stress test.

The second set of pictures is taken later, while your heart is at rest and beating at a normal rate.

Read more articles on Nuclear Heart Scan.

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