Pharmacologic Stress Test

Some people cannot tolerate a treadmill stress test to evaluate the heart. If this is the case for you, your physician may recommend a pharmacologic stress test.

This test simulates the effects of exercise on the heart with a drug (nuclear isotope) that increases blood flow to the heart. In this way, your physician can see if your heart is getting enough blood and functioning properly.

About the Test

A stress test with nuclear isotope has two phases - stress phase and rest phase. You'll receive the nuclear isotope drug through an IV (intravenous) line in your arm.

  • Stress phase: 30-60 minutes after your IV is started, a special camera that detects radiation will take pictures of your heart. This will last about 15 minutes.
  • Rest phase: 2-3 hours later, you'll have another injection of nuclear isotope and another scan 30-60 minutes after that. You can leave, eat and return during the two to three hours before the rest phase of the test.

What You Need to Know

  • Plan for a long day of testing.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • You'll have an IV (intravenous) line placed in your arm.
  • Don't eat or drink after midnight on the night before your test.
  • Bring to the test a list of all medications you take, including over-the-counter medications. Ask your physician in advance if you should stop taking any medications before the test.
  • You can leave, eat and return midway through the testing.