Cardiac Perfusion Scan
Cardiac perfusion scans are usually safe. There is always a slight chance of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the radiation is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.
The risk of exercise depends on the condition of your heart and your general level of health. The risks include:
- Chest pain.
- An irregular heartbeat.
- Heart attack. There is a slight risk that death may result if a heart attack occurs during the test.
After the test
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you develop:
Test results are usually available within 1 to 3 days.
A cardiac perfusion scan measures the amount of blood in your heart muscle at rest and during exercise.
- Normal if radioactive tracer is evenly distributed throughout your heart muscle.
- Abnormal if areas of abnormal tracer absorption are present. This means some areas of heart muscle are not getting enough blood (ischemia). This may mean that the heart has been damaged or that coronary artery disease is present.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- A recent, serious heart attack.
Inflammation of the heart, such as myocarditis or sarcoidosis.
- Bruising of the heart muscle (cardiac contusion).
- Weakening of the heart muscle.
- Stiffening of the heart muscle (myocardial fibrosis).
- A severely narrowed heart valve.
- Implanted cardiac devices, such as a pacemaker.
- A condition that makes it difficult to exercise, such as lung disease, arthritis, or a neuromuscular problem.
- Some medicines, such as dipyridamole (Persantine) and pentoxifylline (Trental).
- Severe electrolyte imbalances (especially calcium, potassium, sodium, or magnesium).
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding (except in an emergency).
Test results may be difficult to interpret in scans done on women with large breasts.
What To Think About
Stress testing using medicine may be done instead of exercise stress testing for older adults and people with conditions that may make exercise difficult, such as those who are obese or those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), peripheral arterial disease, spinal cord injury, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis.
Other tests also may be done to evaluate your heart. To learn more, see: