Instead of using a treadmill, the pharmacological nuclear stress test is a procedure in which a medication is injected to cause some blood vessels in the heart to open (dilate) just as would occur if you were exercising. This test is done over a two-day period.
The test usually takes three hours. During the test an intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm and small adhesive pads are placed on the upper body to monitor heart rate and EKG. Instead of walking on a treadmill, a medication will be injected through the IV to stimulate exercise in your heart. The nuclear tracer will then be injected through your IV line. Blood pressure, heart rate and EKG are frequently monitored before, during, and after the test. After the nuclear tracer injection you will have a 45 minute break during which you may eat and drink and then return for the imaging, which takes approximately 20 minutes.
The second day of testing takes approximately 90 minutes. During this day of testing, an IV will be placed in your arm and the nuclear tracer will again be injected. After a 45 minute break a set of images will be taken. These images will be compared to the images taken on day one of testing when your heart was being stressed while using the treadmill.