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What to Expect: PET Stress Testing

A PET stress test is an advanced diagnostic tool for finding the cause of new or worsening chest pain, stratifying risk for heart disease, deciding how well treatment is progressing, and/or evaluating recovery after a heart attack. Most of the stress tests performed by Heart House physicians are done in the office.

A PET stress test shows your physician pictures of the blood flow to the heart muscle, in addition to the EKG, heartrate and blood pressure.

In order to take the pictures of your heart, you will receive two infusions of a radioactive tracer through an IV. The tracer allows the PET scanner to take pictures of the blood flow to the heart muscle. There are no side effects from the radioactive tracer. It is not a contrast dye. It does not contain iodine and will not harm your kidneys. PET stress testing, is very safe and can help your cardiologist accurately diagnosis heart disease.

Preparing for Your PET Stress Test

When preparing for the PET stress test, you will receive pre-procedure instructions. Do not eat or drink anything that is caffeinated or decaffeinated for at least 24 hours before the procedure. You may have a light meal 4 hours before your appointment. All medication should be taken as you would normally, unless otherwise directed by our office or your physician.

During the Procedure

We ask that you arrive for your stress test approximately 15 minutes before your appointment time to register. Testing begins by placing an IV in your arm. You will go immediately to the PET scanner suite. You will be in the PET scanner for about 45 minutes while we take 3 sets of pictures of your heart.

The first set of pictures is to locate the position of your heart in your chest.  As soon as we locate your heart, we will begin the second set of pictures. You will receive an infusion of a radioactive tracer. This infusion shows us the resting blood flow to the heart muscle. Following your second set of pictures, we will perform your stress test.  We will monitor your heartrate, blood pressure and EKG as we give you an injection of a medication which makes your body think its exercising by opening your blood vessels. It is normal to feel short of breath, pressure in head chest or belly. The side effects go away within a couple of minutes. You will receive a second infusion of the radioactive tracer immediately after the stress test medication.  The second infusion shows the stress blood flow to your heart muscle. We will take the last set of pictures of your heart.

Once the third set of picture is finished we will pull you out of the scanner. We will give you a reversal medication, if needed, to take away the side effects. We monitor you before, during, and after your stress test to make sure you are safe and comfortable.

After your PET stress test is finished, you are free to leave the office. We will process the images and the physician will read the EKGs and the pictures. Someone from the office will call you with results within 24 hours.

Results and Next Steps

Normal results from a PET stress test are typically a good indicator that there is no significant cardiovascular problem that needs immediate attention. Abnormal results will require further diagnosis and/or treatment. Some patients may be referred for a cardiac catheterization, which is a procedure to see if there are any blockages in the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. Depending on the results of the catheterization, you may need stents to open up the blocked arteries.  Significant blockage in the arteries may require a bypass procedure. Milder problems may only require watchful waiting or medication.

PET stress testing is a very safe and easy diagnostic procedure that allows your physician to diagnose coronary artery disease. Please call the office if you have any questions or concerns about your PET stress test.

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