Thallium Stress Test

Overview

As a Chinese Proverb goes – “when the heart is at ease, the body is healthy”. An obvious corollary to this is that if the heart is able to perform optimally during stress, your body will most certainly be healthy. And how do you find out if your heart is performing normally under stress. Well, thanks to the advancements in medical technology, there are many ways to find out.

One of the non-invasive and extremely effective tests to find out about heart health is a Nuclear Stress Test or a Thallium Stress Test. This test which is an extension of the exercise stress test consists of injecting an extremely small amount of nuclear dye in the body. This dye then helps capture images to identify the blood flow to and from the coronary arteries.

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Procedure of Thallium Stress Test

This procedure is also called Myocardial Perfusion Imaging test, since this involves imaging and testing the perfusion (flow) of blood through the heart. The preparation for the test involves:-
  • A thorough consultation with your doctor about your medical history, allergies, possibility of pregnancy, smoking or drinking habits and exercising habits.
  • Checking whether and in what dose should you be taking your heart, diabetes or any other ongoing medicines
  • Wearing loose and comfortable clothes and shoes for exercising

During the myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) procedure, you will be given a radioactive dye, called a tracer or radiotracer, via an IV line. Then you will be asked to rest for 20-30 minutes, during which time the dye will travel to your heart. Then the first set of images will be taken with the help of a “gamma” camera, while you are at rest. 

After this, a nurse will attach electrodes to your body and a cuff to monitor your blood pressure for proceeding with the myocardial perfusion imaging stress test. You will then be asked to exercise either on a treadmill or a stationary bike, while your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored. Once your heart rate reaches a target – set before starting the thallium cardiac stress test – or you feel severe discomfort.

Although, it is quite a safe procedure there might be a few thallium cardiac stress test side effects or risks like

  • Allergy to the radioactive dye
  • High or low blood pressure during the exercise
  • Moderate or major heart pain
  • Dizziness or fainting

Recovery

You can immediately resume your daily activities after the thallium stress test unless your doctor advises otherwise.

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