Stress Myocardial Perfusion MRI

You have been referred by your physician for a stress test--an exam which shows how well your heart works during physical activity. The exam can be used to measure the blood flow to the heart as well as to see any areas where the heart has been damaged (such as by a heart attack). Our team of sub-specialty trained physicians, nurses and technologists is led by Daniel S. Berman, MD, FACC, Chief of Cardiac Imaging and Nuclear Cardiology.

Preparations for the Test

  • Do not eat, drink or smoke for three hours before your appointment. You may drink water.
  • In addition, do not eat or drink any caffeinated foods, beverages, supplements, or medications for 24 hours before your test. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, certain soft drinks, as well as some cold and migraine medications. Please note: decaffeinated products (such as decaf coffee or soda) still contain small amounts of caffeine and should be avoided before this exam
  • Some medications can interfere with this exam. You should speak to your doctor about what medicines you are taking and whether to stop any of them before your stress test. Since some of these medications take as long as 48 hours to clear out of your body, you should speak to your physician several days before you come to the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center.
  • If you are unable to exercise on the treadmill, a medication will be administered to stress your heart. If you are undergoing this type of an exam, you may take all your heart and blood pressure medications as instructed by your physician.
  • If you have diabetes, please speak to your physician prior to this exam to receive special instructions you may need regarding your medications.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and rubber-soled shoes or sneakers for the treadmill portion of this exam.
  • Please bring all your medications or a list of them with doses to your appointment.

During the Test

  • Please allow three to four hours for the entire test.
  • You will receive two injections of a small amount of radioactive material. The level of radioactivity used is extremely low and has no side effects.
  • To minimize the number of injections you receive, an intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm prior to your first injection (thallium) and will be re-used later for your second injection (Cardiolite).
  • Following your first injection, you will be placed under a gamma camera and pictures of your heart will be recorded. This camera does not produce any radiation. It will be placed close to your chest and pictures will be taken for approximately 30 minutes. This portion of the test is called the rest study.
  • Following your rest study, our trained staff will place EKG leads on your chest. The EKG will be used to constantly monitor your heart during your stress test.
  • Your heart will be stressed, either through exercise or through the use of medication.
  • During the test you will be constantly monitored by a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician.
  • The actual stress portion of the test takes about 10 to 15 minutes, however the preparation takes longer (up to 30 minutes).
  • Before the end of the stress test, a second injection (Cardiolite) will be administered. This radiopharmaceutical is taken up by your heart muscle and can be visualized by the gamma camera in the same manner as the rest study.
  • The imaging portion of your stress study will take approximately 45 minutes.

What to Expect

  • Normal responses during testing include feeling tired, shortness of breath and sweating.
  • You should tell the nurse practitioner or physician if you feel any of these symptoms: chest, arm or jaw discomfort, severe shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, dizziness, lightheadedness, leg cramps or soreness.
  • The test will be changed or stopped if it is unsafe for you to continue.

After the Test

  • When the test is over, you may eat or drink and return to your normal routine.
  • You may resume all your medications.
  • Your films will be reviewed by our nuclear cardiologists, and results will be sent to your physician. Your physician will discuss these results with you and explain how the results relate to your health.