The health care provider will inject a radioactive material called technetium into your vein. This substance attaches to red blood cells and passes through the heart.
The red blood cells inside the heart that carry the material form an image that a special camera can pick up. These scanners trace the substance as it moves through the heart area. The camera is timed with an electrocardiogram. A computer then processes the images to make it appear as if the heart is moving.
How to Prepare for the Test
You may be told not to eat or drink for several hours before the test.
How the Test will Feel
You may feel a brief sting or pinch when the IV is inserted into your vein. Most often, a vein in the arm is used. You may have trouble staying still during the test.
Why the Test is Performed
The test will show how well the blood is pumping through different parts of the heart.
Normal results show that the heart squeezing function is normal. The test can check the overall squeezing strength of the heart (ejection fraction). A normal value is above 50 - 55%.
The test also can check the motion of different parts of the heart. If one part of the heart is moving poorly while the others move well, it may mean that there has been damage to that part of the heart.
Udelson JE, Dilsizian V, Bonow RO. Nuclear cardiology. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 17.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.