Imaging camera used for cardiac perfusion scan.

What is it?

A myocardial perfusion scan examines the blood flow to your heart at rest and while your heart is working harder as a result of exertion or a special medication. The test provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart that may need additional treatment. Heart Center of Nevada is able to perform this test right in our office by trained technicians being overseen by our board-certified cardiologists.

Do I need it?

If you are having chest pain, your cardiologist may recommend a perfusion study as a way to take a closer look at the blood vessels that supply the heart. This test allows clinicians to see if any of your coronary arteries are blocked, which can lead to chest pain. If so, they may recommend further interventions to open the blocked arteries such as an angiogram.

What should I expect?

Your test will take place in our Nuclear Medicine room. The testing area is supervised by a cardiologist. The test involves taking two sets of images of your heart — one while you’re at rest and another after you heart is “stressed” by medication (radioactive tracer).

In a myocardial perfusion scan the lab technician will inject a radioactive dye into your bloodstream to either speed up the heart rate or dilates the arteries. When the peak heart rate is reached, the patient is injected again with a medication through an IV that increases blood flow to your heart muscle — simulating what exercise does — for the test. Depending on which medication is used, possible side effects may be similar to those caused by exercise, such as a flushing or shortness of breath. As soon as it has circulated throughout the bloodstream the gamma camera takes more pictures. This phase of the procedure is called the “stress scan” of the heart. The camera will record images that show blood flow through your heart during exercise. These images will be compared to the first set.

Can I eat or drink on the day of the test?

  • DO NOT eat or drink anything after midnight the day of the test. If you must take medications, drink only small sips of water.
  • Avoid all products that contain caffeine for 24 hours before the scan because it can interfere with test results. This includes coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), tea, soft drinks, and most chocolate products.
  • DO NOT smoke the day of test, as nicotine will interfere with the results.

The coronary arteries supply blood to heart muscles. A cardiac perfusion scan can help determine whether they are blocked.

Should I take my medications the day of the test?

Please bring a copy of all of your medications, including over-the-counter medications and supplements you routinely take, to the appointment. You can review and print the forms at the top of the page for more information. Please follow these guidelines about taking your medications the day of the test:

Medications with caffeine

DO NOT take any over-the-counter medication that contains caffeine for 24 hours before the test.

If you have asthma

DO NOT take theophylline (Theo-dur) for 48 hours before the test. Please bring your asthma inhaler medication to the test.

If you have diabetes

If you take insulin to control your blood sugar, ask your cardiologist how much insulin you should take the day of the test. Your cardiologist may tell you to take only half of your usual morning dose and to eat a light meal four hours before the test. If you take pills to control your blood sugar, do not take your medication until after the test is complete. Bring your diabetes medications with you. Do not take your diabetes medication and skip a meal before the test. If you own a glucose monitor, we recommend you bring it with you to check your blood sugar levels before and after your test. If you think your blood sugar is low, tell the technician immediately. Plan to eat and take your blood sugar medication following your test.

If you take heart medications

DO NOT take the following heart medications on the day of the test unless your cardiologist tells you otherwise, or unless it is needed to treat chest discomfort the day of the test:

  • - Isosorbide dinitrate (for example: Dilatrate®, Isordil®)
  • - Isosorbide mononitrate (for example: Imdur®, Monoket®)
  • - Nitroglycerin (for example: Nitropatches®, Nitrostat®)
  • - Dipyridamole (Persantine®) – Stop taking 48 hours before the test
  • - Beta Blockers (for example: metoprolol, metoprolol XL, atenolol)

If you have any questions about your medications, please call any office before your test. Do not discontinue any medication without first talking with your cardiologist.

What should I wear for the test?

Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

What if I need to cancel or reschedule?

We ask that you call our office to cancel or reschedule your scan at least 24 hours prior. You may be charged a fee if not because the medication ordered cannot be used on another patient.

What can the test show?

The myocardial perfusion scan has the ability to identify:

  • - Normal blood flow during rest and exercise – this means heart function appears to be normal at all times. You probably do not have coronary artery disease and no further testing is likely required.
  • - Normal blood flow during rest, abnormal during exercise – part of the heart muscle is not getting sufficient blood during physical activity. This means there is a probability of coronary artery disease (blocked arteries).
  • - Poor blood flow both during exercise and rest – this indicates the heart is never getting all the blood it needs to function properly. This may be due to previous heart attack or severe coronary artery disease.


How do I get the results of my test?

After the cardiologist reviews the images from your scan, the results will go into your electronic medical record. A follow-up appointment will made to discuss your results. Your referring physician will also have access to the results.

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