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Heart Disease Health Center

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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:

  • Fainting.
  • 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.

Results are:1

  • 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:

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:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 13, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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