Cardiovascular Testing and Diagnostics
Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Nuclear Cardiology

Nuclear cardiology is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose heart-related illnesses such as coronary artery disease. Small, safe amounts of radioactive materials are injected into the patient and travel to the heart, enabling images to be produced and interpreted by a board-certified cardiologist or radiologist with specialty expertise in nuclear cardiology.

Contact the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Contact the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

For more information about Nuclear Cardiology or to refer a patient, please call 1-855-332-8474 (1-855-33-CVRI).

Nuclear imaging tests evaluate how your heart functions during exercise. If you cannot exercise, we use drugs that simulate exercise to determine your heart’s capacity, physical conditioning, and whether it is receiving enough blood under stress or rest conditions. Test results are reported within 24 hours (or within a few hours for emergency room patients). Integral to the diagnostic process is the solid-state cardiac gamma camera, which reduces both imaging time and radiation dose, making the procedure safer and more comfortable for patients while maintaining diagnostic accuracy. The camera enables our experts to tailor imaging for each patient to ensure the best possible test with the lowest possible risk. Common exams include stress testing with myocardial perfusion imaging and cardiac blood pool scans.

Myocardial perfusion imaging stress test: A myocardial perfusion imaging stress test is advanced testing for coronary disease, valvular disease, or heart failure and helps evaluate the pumping action of the heart and determine the size and location of a heart attack.

Cardiac blood pool scan: A blood pool scan (also called RVG) is used to assess the pumping function of the heart and evaluate the sizes of the chamber, aorta, and pulmonary artery. It is used to monitor the effects of drugs, such as chemotherapy, on the heart. No special preparation is necessary.

PET and PET/CT scan: Positron emission tomography (PET) is a noninvasive, nuclear-medicine diagnostic procedure during which a radioactive tracer is injected into the body. By tracking the tracer’s distribution, PET identifies chemical and physiological changes related to metabolism. PET allows us to discover these changes in their earliest stages, often before any symptoms appear, and provides important and accurate information.

PET/CT combines the strengths of PET with those of computed tomography (CT), which produces a detailed anatomic map of the body and shows structural abnormalities in minute detail. By superimposing the PET and CT data on one image, measuring both perfusion and metabolic activity within the heart, PET/CT scans can pinpoint areas of decreased blood flow, such as that caused by artery blockages, and differentiate damaged muscle from healthy muscle.