Nuclear Stress Test – Side Effects & Preparation
A nuclear stress test provides more reliable and accurate information than the other routine exercise stress tests.
A nuclear stress test is similar to the exercise stress test or pharmacological (chemical) stress test, but a small amount of radioactive substance is used to determine the health of the heart and blood flow to the heart.
A nuclear stress test lets doctors see pictures of your heart while you are resting and shortly after you have exercised. The test can give information about the size of the heart’s chambers, how well the heart is pumping blood, and whether the heart has any damaged or dead muscle. Nuclear stress tests can also give doctors information about your arteries and whether they might be narrowed or blocked because of coronary artery disease.
It has been found that many people complain of mild to severe headaches. This could happen due to the effect of the vasodilators (the pharmacologic agent used for the stress test). The occurrence of this side effect is considered normal; however, make sure you let your cardiologist know about it.
One of the side effects that the person suffers from is chest pain or a discomfort in the heart, immediately after the nuclear stress test. This happens due to increased pressure or pumping of the blood into the heart due to physical exertion.
Erratic Heart Rate
Few people may face problems of erratic heart rate and difficulty in breathing after the tests. When the patient is put through some form of physical exertion, it affects the blood flow to the heart, resulting in an erratic heart rate.
Low Blood Pressure
Adenosine (given to patients with abnormal heart rhythm), dobutamine (given to asthma patients), etc. – pharmacological agents used during a stress test – are coronary vasodilators that dilate the heart vessels because of which blood flow increases. The side effect of these agents is that it can result in lowering of blood pressure levels in patients.
Few patients have reported to have experienced a metallic taste in their mouths, that is quite bitter and is believed to cause a discomfort to the person. This happens during a treadmill stress test when a patient may experience a bitter taste few minutes after the injection has been administered.
Other Side Effects
- Following are the important points that must be followed before the nuclear stress test.
- The person going for the nuclear test is expected not to eat or drink 4 to 6 hours before the test.
- Your doctor will ask you to stop taking medicines (if you are taking any) temporarily, so that the effectiveness of nuclear stress test is more pronounced.
- You will be asked to wear comfortable clothes, as you have to run on a treadmill.
The gains from the stress test are far more than the risks, and there are trained technicians to handle radiation exposure. The costs are very expensive (relative to other tests). These tests have rarely caused deaths or some serious trouble. However, if you experience any adverse effect, you should not panic and must immediately consult a doctor. The side effects are occasional and go away with time. Pregnant women and other people who are unwell, must consult the doctor before they opt for this test.