Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Nuclear Medicine Clinic

713-794-7077
(2nd floor between the Green and Red elevators)

Check-in is located in Room 2C-260. Doors open at 7:30 a.m.; however, please check-in no more than 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time. If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call 713-794-7077 so we may serve another Veteran.

What is a Cardiac Stress Test? 

A Cardiac Stress Test measures your heart’s ability to respond to stress, such as physical strain. The test compares blood circulation to your heart while at rest to circulation when you are physically exerting yourself. This test can identify abnormal blood flow to the heart, diagnose heart disease, and determine your cardiac health after a heart attack.

Prepare for your Cardiac Stress Test: 

  • The night before your test, do not eat or drink after midnight. You may have enough water to take your medication.
  • Do not have any caffeine 24 hours before your test. This includes coffee, decaf-coffee, tea, any soft drinks (even caffeine-free), or chocolate. You may have juice, milk, or water.
  • If you are pregnant or breast feeding, make sure you discuss this test with your primary care physician. 
  • CHECK WITH YOUR PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR TO SEE IF ANY OF YOUR MEDICINE NEEDS TO BE STOPPED PRIOR TO THE STRESS TEST.
  • Do not take nitroglycerin pills or wear a nitro patch the day of your stress test.
  • If you use an inhaler, bring it with you.
  • You may have to walk on a treadmill during the test, so wear comfortable clothing and sneakers/rubber-soled shoes.

Patients weighing more than 250 pounds:

Your test will require you to be at the clinic for two days. On the first day, you may eat and take medication as prescribed, but do not have caffeine after 8 a.m. on the first day. Your second day will follow the preparation instructions above.

About the Cardiac Stress Test:

The entire Cardiac Stress Test procedure usually takes 3 to 5 hours. Before the exam, a Physician Assistant will explain the entire procedure to you, including the risks and benefits. If you are not comfortable with the procedure, you do not have to undergo the test.

An IV will be placed in your arm and the first of two injections of radioactive tracer will be given to you. One hour after the first injection, a technician will take a set of cardiac images. Taking the images is comfortable; you rest flat on your back with arms over your head and remain still for about 5 minutes.

Next, you will perform the stress test. You will either walk on a treadmill or receive an injection to dilate your blood vessels (a pharmaceutical stress test). The Physician Assistant will determine which stress test is best for you. Your blood pressure and heart function will be monitored through the stress test. The stress test takes 15 to 25 minutes. During the stress test, you will be given a second injection of radioactive tracer and instructed to return to the clinic in 1 hour for a second set of cardiac images. During this hour, you may eat and drink as you like.

A small number of patients may experience headache, flushing, chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, changes in heart rhythm and blood pressure, and, in rare cases, fainting or a heart attack during the pharmaceutical stress test. Overall, these side effects are temporary and resolve very quickly.