The test usually consists of two parts: after exercising and under resting conditions. There are many variations for performing the test, which depend on the department’s routine. The entire test may be completed in one day or on two separate days. You will be informed if the exercise or test portion will be done first. Radioactive pharmaceutical will be administered by injection during peak stress and once again while you are at rest.
As in a regular stress test, ECG electrodes will be attached to your chest. This will allow your physician to monitor your heart rate before, during, and after exercise. A blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure before, during, and after exercise. Additionally, an intravenous(IV) line will be placed in a vein in your hand or arm to allow for ease of the radioactive pharmaceutical injection. The IV will be removed when the exam is completed.
The exercise part of the exam is usually done with a treadmill, very similar to a treadmill used at a health club. Exercising will begin slowly, and approximately every three minutes, the pace will increase. As you exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure will change. This is normal, and remember, you are being closely monitored throughout the exam. At your peak exercise, radioactive pharmaceutical will be injected in the IV, and you will be asked to continue exercising for an additional one to two minutes.
Approximately 15-45 minutes after the exercise is completed, pictures will be taken of your heart using a special camera able to trace the radioactive pharmaceutical that has localized in your heart. You will lie down on a special table. The camera will rotate above and around your chest while special pictures are being taken, which will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete. You may breathe normally while the pictures are being taken. It is very important that you hold very still while the camera takes the pictures of your heart. You will not receive any radiation from the camera.
The resting pictures are taken in the same manner as the exercise pictures. Remember, the order in which pictures are taken depends on the department’s imaging procedure. The total time needed for the test varies and may take from two to five hours.