Cardiac Nuclear Medicine

Our Nuclear Cardiology department is a fully accredited laboratory with the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Nuclear Medicine Laboratories (ICANL). This accreditation is the foundation to create, achieve and to ensure the highest quality patient care. The nuclear medicine technologists are all specially trained and focus on listening with respect and providing compassionate care.

When scheduled for a nuclear cardiology exam, patients should inquire as to the accreditation status of the facility where their examination will be performed. Patients can rely on accreditation as an indication that the facility where their examination will be performed has proven a commitment to providing quality testing for the diagnosis of heart disorders and disease. Patients can rest assured that accredited facilities have been carefully critiqued on all aspects of their operations considered relevant by medical experts in the field of nuclear cardiology.

What is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that uses safe, painless and cost-effective techniques to image the body and treat disease. Nuclear medicine imaging is unique in that it documents organ function and structure, in contrast to diagnostic radiology, which is based upon anatomy. It is a way to gather medical information that may otherwise be unavailable, require surgery, or necessitate more expensive diagnostic tests.

Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of serious disease. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures often identify abnormalities long before other diagnostic tests. This early detection allows us to treat a disease earlier when there may be a more successful prognosis.

Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive materials or radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat disease. Radiopharmaceuticals are substances that are attracted to specific organs, bones or tissues. The radiopharmaceuticals used in nuclear medicine emit gamma rays that can be detected externally by special types of cameras: gamma or PET cameras. These cameras work in conjunction with computers used to form images that provide data and information about the area of body being imaged. The amount of radiation from a nuclear medicine procedure is comparable to that received during a diagnostic x-ray.

Today, nuclear medicine offers procedures that are helpful to a broad span of medical specialties, from pediatrics to cardiology to psychiatry. There are nearly one hundred different nuclear medicine imaging procedures available and not a major organ system, which is not imaged by nuclear medicine.

Using Nuclear Medicine in Cardiac Care

Nuclear medicine is used in cardiac care to:
  • Diagnose coronary artery disease.
  • Measure effectiveness of bypass surgery.
  • Measure effectiveness of therapy for heart failure.
  • Detect heart transplant rejection.
  • Select patients for bypass or angioplasty.
  • Identify patients at high risk of heart attacks going to surgery for other reasons.
  • Identify right heart failure.
  • Measure chemotherapy cardiac toxicity.
  • Evaluate valvular heart disease.
  • Identify shunts and quantify them.
  • Diagnose and localize acute (critical) heart attacks before enzyme changes. 

Nuclear Treadmill

Our treadmill stress test compares blood flow in the heart at rest and also during peak exercise. Very small amounts of radioactive material are introduced into the body, where they travel to specific organs or tissues. Computers, scanners, cameras and other sophisticated equipment then spot the radioactive tracers and provide extremely detailed information for radiologists. The treadmill stress test compares blood flow in the heart at rest and also during peak exercise. Areas of the heart that are not receiving a normal blood supply appear dark or "abnormal" on a nuclear scan, showing tissue that has been damaged by heart attacks or blocked arteries, or where earlier medical measures, such as bypass grafts, have failed.

Safety of Nuclear Medicine

Our nuclear medicine team is specially trained to avoid any unnecessary radiation exposure. Patients receive just enough radiation to allow for an accurate image. This radiation is comparable to - or often times less than - that of an x-ray.