SPECT and PET Nuclear Stress Test
SPECT and PET Nuclear Stress Test; Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in most developed countries. The heart is a very crucial and delicate organ that needs utmost care. Cardiac imaging is a critical technology used to check the heart for any problem.
As coronary artery disease progresses, the heart muscle may not receive a sufficient amount of blood when under stress, such as when exercising. This can result in chest pain. If coronary artery disease is limiting blood flow to your heart, the nuclear stress test may be used to detect the presence and impact of the disease.
Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) diagnostic nuclear imaging studies use radioactive tracers to produce images of the heart. SPECT uses a radioactive tracer known as sestamibi or tetrofosmin while PET uses a radioactive tracer called Rubidium.
SPECT and PET imaging tests are combined with nuclear stress tests either through exercise or the use of a pharmacological agent to help determine if the heart is receiving the sufficient amount of blood that it needs.
What is Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)?
Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) imaging test is a non-invasive technique that provides metabolic and functional information about the heart. It involves injecting radioactive tracers known as sestamibi or tetrofosmin into the bloodstream to produce pictures of the heart muscle which shows whether a patient has cardiovascular disease or not.
The SPECT camera picks up signals from the radioactive tracers as they move around the patient’s chest. The signals are then transformed into computer images which are seen and examined by a cardiologist. SPECT can be used to examine the condition of the heart while the patient is at rest, or in combination with a nuclear stress test.
What is Positron Emission Tomography (PET)?
The Positron Emission Tomography (PET) test is a non-invasive imaging technique that involves injecting radioactive tracers known as ammonia or rubidium into the bloodstream to assist a camera to create images of the heart. PET can be used to examine blood flow to the heart. A PET image can help physicians identify areas of the heart that are damaged.
SPECT and PET tests can help identify whether a percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass is appropriate.
Nuclear stress test
Nuclear stress test, also known as a myocardial perfusion stress test, is a type of stress test that uses an imaging contrast agent known as a radiotracer to take images of your heart during stress and when at rest.
Images of your heart will be taken before and after stress. The nuclear stress test is done to determine the effects of stress on blood flow through the coronary arteries and the heart muscle.
The stress test is usually requested by a cardiologist to evaluate any heart abnormalities, such as coronary artery disease. A stress test may also be used to assess generally how your heart works and if blood flows sufficiently to your heart during stress.
SPECT and PET stress test procedure
You may have SPECT and PET stress on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital.
Generally, a SPECT and PET stress test follow this process:
- You will be asked to remove any jewelry or objects that may interfere with the procedure and put on comfortable clothing.
- An intravenous (IV) line will be administered in your hand or arm where the tracers will be injected.
- Images of your heart will first be taken while your heart is at rest. To do this, a technician will inject a radiotracer through the IV line into your bloodstream.
- Once it does, you will be placed into the heart scanner where you will need to lie still on a table so the scanner can take the first set of images of your heart while your heart is at rest.
- After the images of your heart at rest are taken, you will be connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine. Leads will be attached to the skin on your chest, legs, and arms. A blood pressure cuff will also be placed on your arm.
- You will need to exercise or run on a treadmill to increase the stress on your heart. You will start slowly and the intensity will be gradually increased by increasing the speed of the treadmill.
- As you continue on the treadmill, your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored. Once you have reached your maximal exercise point, which will be determined by your doctor based on your heart rate and age, the radioactive tracer will be injected into your IV line through into your bloodstream.
- After the tracer has been injected into your bloodstream, you will need to continue running on the treadmill for several minutes.
- After running on the treadmill for several minutes, you will then be placed into the heart scanner which will take images of your heart.
- Your doctor will then assess the images.
SPECT and PET stress tests can also be done without running on a treadmill. If you’re unable to exercise or run on a treadmill, your heart can be stressed by taking a certain medication that increases your heart rate or dilates your blood vessels. You will get the same effect and result as you would during exercise.
- Instead of running on a treadmill, you will be asked to lie down on a table in the heart scanner.
- Medicine will be injected into your IV line. Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored.
- The tracer will be injected into your IV line and then the heart scanner will take images of your heart. You will need to lie very still while the scanner takes the images, as any movement can affect the quality of the images.
What should I avoid after a nuclear stress test?
Before a nuclear stress test, you may be asked to avoid caffeine the day before and the day of the test. You may be asked not to eat, drink or smoke for a period of time before the test.
You may be asked to avoid certain medications such as medications containing theophylline, medications that slow the heart rate, and Nitrate medications.
After the nuclear stress test, there is really nothing you should avoid. You might be asked to stand still for several seconds after the test and then lie down for a short period while the monitors are still in place.
Your doctor can monitor you for any problems as your heart rate and breathing return to normal. If there are no problems, you can go back home and you may return to normal activities unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
The radiotracer will gradually leave your body via your urine or stool. You should drink plenty of water to help flush out the radiotracer from your body.
How long does a pet nuclear stress test take?
A PET nuclear stress test can take 45 – 60 minutes to be completed.
Why would a doctor order a nuclear stress test?
Your doctor may order a Stress test to evaluate any heart abnormalities, including heart blockages known as coronary artery disease.
Your doctor may also order a Stress test to assess how your heart works during stress conditions, such as during exercise.
Your doctor may order a stress test if:
- You have chest pain that is becoming more severe or that occurs more often
- You had a heart attack
- You have heart rhythms that change during exercise
- You have a heart valve problem such as an aortic valve or mitral valve stenosis
- You had angioplasty (stenting) or a heart bypass surgery
- You have existing heart disease
- You have certain risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or smoke
- You want to start a new exercise program
What can a SPECT scan diagnose?
A SPECT scan can give cardiologists insight into the condition of your heart. The scan can highlight areas where the blood flows to, through, and from the heart. A SPECT scan can be used to diagnose a variety of heart conditions including seizures, stroke, stress fractures, infections, and tumors in the spine.
How long does a SPECT heart scan take?
SPECT heart scan can take 30-60 minutes to be completed.
How much does a PET stress test cost?
PET stress test cost varies largely depending on various factors. The PET stress cost for the heart costs between $2,850 – 24,200. The PET stress cost for the whole body cost between $3,300 – $12,000 while the PET stress cost for the brain cost between $2,250– $10,700
Why would a cardiologist order a PET scan?
A PET scan for the heart can detect whether areas of your heart muscle are receiving enough blood or not. It can detect if there is heart damage or scar tissue in the heart. It can also detect if there is a buildup of abnormal substances in your heart muscle. If you’re experiencing frequent chest pains or chest pain that is becoming more severe, a cardiologist may order a PET scan. If you have any heart abnormalities, including heart blockages known as coronary artery disease, a cardiologist may order a PET scan.
Can a PET scan detect clogged arteries?
Yes. A PET scan can detect a clogged or narrowed artery. PET scan is most often used to diagnose heart conditions such as coronary artery disease. This disease is caused by the accumulation or build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries, thereby narrowing the arteries and limiting the flow of blood to the heart.