Nuclear Cardiology

North Mississippi Medical Center's Nuclear Cardiology Laboratory performs non-invasive heart studies using radioactive material. These studies show blood flow to the heart muscle and how well the heart is functioning.

Before the Study

Once a physician has written an order for a study, several things need to happen before the study. First, you will be scheduled for the study. Second, you must carefully follow the instructions about how to take medications for this study. Third, you cannot eat anything for at least six hours before the study or drink any caffeinated products for at least 12 hours before the study.

Upon Arrival

When you arrive at the Heart & Vascular Institute, someone will escort you to the Nuclear Cardiology Laboratory. There a technologist explains the study and answers any questions. Next, the technologist places a small venous catheter in your vein and injects a dose of radioactive material. Then you wait one to two hours to allow for normal biophysiological events to occur.

After the waiting period, someone will escort you back to the nuclear lab, where you will be placed on an imaging table. We will use a sophisticated gamma camera, which detects where the radiopharmaceutical is in your heart muscle. The imaging takes approximately 12-15 minutes. Then someone will escort you to another area, where a registered nurse will explain the stress test and answer any questions.

Test Options

Physicians can order the stress portion of the test to be performed one of two ways: mechanically, using a treadmill, or chemically, using one of several stress drugs. A cardiologist is present while the patient is being stressed.

During the treadmill part, you will exercise until your heart rate reaches a certain level or until the cardiologist stops the test. When your heart reaches a certain level, you will be injected with another dose of radioactive material and asked to walk for one minute after the injection.

When the doctor orders a drug to be given, the test is usually performed while the patient is lying down, and the drug is given via a catheter already in place. The drug is given over several minutes, along with a dose of radioactive material.

Whether undergoing mechanical or chemical stress testing, you will be monitored before, during and after the test.

Final Step

You will rest before we take the last images. After you rest, we will escort you back to the gamma camera again. The gamma camera then detects where the blood flowed to the heart muscle at stress. This last procedure takes approximately 12-15 minutes.

Once the imaging is complete, we will process the rest and stress data and compared it to a normal database. A cardiologist will compare the blood flow pattern at stress to the blood pattern at rest and determine if the patterns are the same. Information from this study helps your physician diagnose and treat certain heart diseases.

Be Prepared

  • Bring all medications
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Do not eat anything for at least six hours before the study
  • Do not drink anything except water for at least 12 hours before the study
  • Be prepared to stay three to four hours

Please tell the technologist or nurse if:

  • You are pregnant or think you may be
  • You are breastfeeding
  • You have asthma
  • You have had another nuclear medicine study within the last month

Certain situations require that the patient come back another day for another part of the study.

Make an Appointment

For an appointment with a heart or vascular specialist, call 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375).