When your doctor wants to determine how well your heart is functioning, see if you are at risk for a cardiac event or decide on the best course of treatment (i.e. angioplasty, stenting, or valve surgery), he or she may recommend nuclear imaging.

At Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular, we lead the way in diagnostic cardiovascular imaging, and noninvasive nuclear scanning (measuring small amounts of radioactive material) gives us the accuracy we need to better analyze, diagnose, and treat heart disease.

How does nuclear cardiologic imaging work?

  • Nuclear imaging is a branch of radiology where tiny amounts of radioactive material are used to assess the heart’s structure and function. Often times, blood vessels are difficult to visualize and assess on a traditional X-ray scan alone.
  • To overcome this issue, doctors will inject a small amount of contrast dye using cardiac catheterization (a long, thin tube is inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to the heart).
  • Once the contrast dye has been administered, doctors will commence ‘nuclear’ scanning. This involves giving the patient a small amount of a harmless radioactive substance (also called a radiopharmaceutical) through an IV line. The radiologist will choose the type of radioactive substance based on the organ and/or medical issue being examined.
  • Once the radiopharmaceutical has been administered it will begin to collect and give off radiation in certain areas (knows as hot spots). The areas that do not absorb as much radiation, and appear less bright, are “cold spots.” A special camera is used to determine where the hot sports are, allowing doctors to focus in on specific areas.

Nuclear scanning is used to assess the following:

  • Blood circulation (is the heart getting and expelling enough blood?)
  • Potential tissue damage to the heart
  • Detection of undiagnosed heart disease
  • Monitoring of existing interventions
  • Assessing risk for future cardiac events

Is nuclear imaging safe?

Absolutely. While the name may be off putting or raise anxiety, the amount of radiation used in a nuclear scan is minimal and typically equal to or less than a common chest X-ray.

Nuclear medicine, close to home.

At Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular, we proudly offer cardiovascular patients the highest level of radiologic expertise employing the latest diagnostic tools and technologies in order to make informed treatment decisions.

If you or a loved one has been referred for a nuclear scan, know that state-of-the art care is never far away.

To schedule an appointment in Portland, please call 503-607-8380.

To schedule an appointment in Tillamook, please call 503-446-6073.

To schedule an appointment in Walla Walla, please call 503-707-8043.


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10000 SE Main St.
Portland, OR 97216

(503) 607-8380


1100 Third St.
Tillamook, OR 97216

(503) 446-6073

Walla Walla

1025 S Second Ave.
Walla Walla, WA 99362

(509) 707-8043