Nuclear cardiology studies use noninvasive techniques to assess heart blood flow. These procedures evaluate the pumping function of the heart and can visualize the size and location of a heart attack. Among the techniques of nuclear cardiology, heart perfusion imaging is the most widely used.
In Heart Perfusion Imaging, pictures are taken during exercise to assess the blood flow to the heart muscle. Exercise can be in the form of walking on the treadmill or by taking medications that cause a similar physiological response – called a “chemical” stress test. Both tests provide similar information about the heart's blood flow.
A small amount of a nuclear tracer is injected into the blood stream during the rest and/or exercise periods of the test. A scanning camera is used to detect the tracer in the arteries of the heart. If an artery is significantly blocked, the heart muscle may not get enough blood supply during exercise. These areas of the heart will also receive a lesser amount of nuclear tracer, which is detected by the scanning camera.
Heart perfusion imaging is a proven “gold standard” procedure with nearly 40 years of clinical data. The procedure is proven to help identify patients who are at an increased risk for a heart attack and who may be candidates for interventions such as angioplasty or heart surgery.