D-SPECT and Nuclear Stress Testing | UPMC HealthBeat

A nuclear stress test is one of the most common tests cardiologists use to diagnose and monitor many heart conditions. The test measures blood flow to the heart at rest and after activity, or stress.

Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to learn more about nuclear stress tests.

The test shows how well blood flows to your heart and can help your doctor:

  • Detect the presence of heart disease
  • Determine your risk for heart attacks
  • Understand how well treatment — like medicine, angioplasty, or heart surgery — is working
  • Decide whether you are healthy enough to start an exercise program or undergo

A traditional nuclear stress test uses a gamma camera, a donut-shaped imaging machine, to take pictures of your heart after the injection of a radioactive tracer. The patient is scanned at rest and pictures are obtained. Next, you either exercise or receive medicine to simulate exercise and will have a second scan to obtain pictures after stress. Your doctor will compare the pictures obtained after stress to those obtained at rest.

RELATED: Meet the Members of Your Heart Failure Care Team

In a gamma camera, you must lie completely still with your arms above your head, and each scan takes about 20 minutes. Some people with back pain, trouble breathing, claustrophobia, and other health problems find it hard to lie still in the scanner.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

In this video, Matthew Harinstein, MD, FACC, FASE, FASNC, explains how nuclear stress tests work using both a gamma camera and the newer D-SPECT® nuclear cardiology camera, which offers many advantages to some patients, including:

  • A more comfortable test that allows you to sit up, instead of lying down
  • Faster scanning time
  • A lower dose of radiation

Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to learn more about nuclear stress tests.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.