Skip to Content

Pharmacologic With Radiopharmacologic Stress Testing


What is pharmacologic with radiopharmacologic stress testing?

Pharmacologic with radiopharmacologic stress testing is also called a nuclear stress test. It uses medicine to stress your heart and make it work just as it does when you exercise. A radioactive liquid is also used to help compare blood flow to your heart at rest and during stress.

Why may I need a nuclear stress test?

You may need this test if you have heart-related symptoms but cannot exercise. Caregivers may also use a nuclear stress test to do any of the following:

  • Look for the cause of symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and weakness
  • Monitor or diagnose a heart condition, such as heart disease or arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats)
  • Check blood flow to your heart after heart surgery
  • Check your risk for a heart attack

Which medicines are used during a nuclear stress test?

  • Medicine that works on the heart muscles: These increase your heart rate and the strength of contractions (pumping) of your heart muscles. This causes an increase in the blood flow.
  • Medicine that affects the blood vessels of the heart: These cause your arteries to dilate (widen) so that there will be more blood flow.

How is a nuclear stress test done?

A nuclear stress testing can be done in a clinic, a caregiver's office, or in a hospital.

  • An IV line is placed in an arm vein.
  • Electrodes (sticky patches) are stuck on your chest. Hair may need to be removed to help the patches stick to your skin. The electrodes will be attached to wires that send the electrical activity of your heart to the ECG monitor.
  • A dose of the radioactive liquid is injected while you are resting. Pictures are taken with a x-ray machine.
  • Your caregiver will decide on the type of medicine to be used for your test. The medicine is given slowly by a caregiver, or a pump may be used. ECG tracings will be recorded during and after the medicine has been given.
  • A second dose of the radioactive liquid will be given 1 minute later, and more pictures will be taken.

What may prevent me from having a nuclear stress test?

  • You are pregnant.
  • You are having an asthma attack.
  • You have taken medicine that contains dipyridamole in the last 24 hours. Dypiridamole is a blood thinner. Ask your caregiver for more information about medicines that may contain dipyridamole.
  • You have had food or liquids that contain caffeine within the last 12 hours.
  • Your heart rate is 40 beats per minute or lower.
  • You have a low blood pressure reading.
  • You have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

What are the risks of a nuclear stress test?

You may have an allergic reaction to the liquid. A reaction can cause nausea, vomiting, or trouble breathing. The test may cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, and weak. You may feel your heart throbbing or have extra heartbeats, chest pains, or a heart attack.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You feel dizzy or lightheaded.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain even after you take your medicines.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Pharmacologic With Radiopharmacologic Stress Testing

IBM Watson Micromedex