Cardiovascular Testing and Diagnostics
Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Myocardial Perfusion Imaging Stress Test

Myocardial perfusion imaging (pictures of the heart) are combined with exercise, enabling us to assess the blood flow to the heart both at rest and after stress. The exercise can be performed by walking on a treadmill or by using a drug (Dipyridamole/ Persantine or Dobutamine) for patients who are unable to safely walk on a treadmill. It also helps us evaluate the pumping action of the heart and determine the size and location of a heart attack.

Prepare for Myocardial Perfusion Imaging Stress Test

  • You will be asked to not eat or drink for at least 4 hours prior to your appointment time.
  • If you are scheduled for a Dipyridamole (Persantine ) myocardial perfusion study you will also be asked to refrain from having any caffeine for at least 24 hours prior to your exam. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate and even some aspirin.
  • Your doctor may decide to temporarily discontinue certain medications before you have your test. If you are taking heart medication, your doctor may want to see how well your heart works without the medicine or the doctor may want you to stay on the medicine. If you have any questions as to whether or not to take your medicine, call your doctor for instructions.
  • If you need to take your medicines, take them with as little water as possible.
  • Bring a list of your medications with you on the day of your exam.
  • If you are a diabetic you should check with your physician about coordinating your medication and food intake for your scheduled appointment time.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and a pair of walking shoes.
  • If you wear reading glasses bring them with you. You will need to read and sign a consent form before you start your test.

What to Expect During Your Myocardial Perfusion Imaging Stress Test

  1. Once you arrive in the department a qualified stress nurse will review your history and answer any questions you may have about the test. Your nurse will then insert a small IV needle into a vein in your arm or hand. EKG leads will be placed on your chest so that we can monitor your heart during the exam.
  2. A diagnostic imaging agent will be injected through the IV by the nuclear medicine technologist. The agent will travel throughout your body and concentrate in your heart. You will be asked to wait at least 15 minutes and then you will be taken into a camera room for imaging.
  3. The camera that will take your picture rotates closely around you. If you are claustrophobic, please inform the nurse before the start of your test. Taking the picture takes approximately 15 minutes. It is important that you hold still while the picture is being taken.
  4. Once the picture is complete you will be asked to wait for a period of time. This time is hard to judge, but plan on waiting between 30 to 90 minutes.
  5. Depending on the type of exam that your physician has ordered, you will either be exercising several minutes on a treadmill or you will be injected with a prescribed medication (Dipyridamole/Persantine or Dobutamine) which will exercise your heart for you. In either case the purpose is to increase the workload being placed on your heart. During your exam, the stress nurse and the nuclear medicine technologist will coach you and closely monitor your ECG and blood pressure.
  6. It is important that you exercise to the level required. If at any time during the exam you experience unusual symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest or arm pain, or lightheadedness, immediately tell someone on the team.
  7. Near the end of the exercise or medication infusion, the nuclear medicine technologist will inject another diagnostic agent into the IV. This dose will also travel throughout your body and concentrate in your heart.
  8. Once the stress portion is complete you will be asked to wait a minimum of 30 minutes. You will then be taken into the camera room and images of your heart will be taken again. These images will take approximately 20 minutes.
  9. You should plan on being in the department for three to five hours on the day of your test.