During a nuclear cardiology test, a very small amount of radioactive tracer (radionuclide) is injected into a vein and is taken up by the heart. A very sensitive gamma camera then takes still pictures and movies of the heart with rest, exercise, or medication-induced stress testing. These cardiac images help to identify coronary heart disease, the severity of prior heart attacks, and the risk of future heart attacks. These highly accurate measurements of heart size and function and amount of heart muscle at risk of damage enable cardiologists to better prescribe medications and select further testing like a coronary angiogram, the need for angioplasty and bypass surgery, or devices to optimize treatment outcomes.
Types of nuclear cardiology imaging:
Cardiac SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans - also called myocardial perfusion imaging - are non-invasive tests that are used to assess the hearts structure and function.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a type of nuclear imaging that can evaluate heart function. Performed in New York-Presbyterians Division of Nuclear Medicine, PET scans can be used to look for coronary artery disease by examining how blood flows through the heart; it can evaluate damage to heart tissue after a heart attack.
MUGA (Multiple Gated Acquisition) Scan - also called radionuclide angiography (RNA) - is a test that is used to evaluate heart function by measuring how much blood is pumped out of the ventricles of the heart with each heartbeat (ejection fraction). A small amount of a safe radioactive tracer solution is introduced into a vein. This substance attaches to red blood cells, which are visualized by a special camera and computer as they travel through the heart, and the ejection fraction is calculated based on the computer-generated images.