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 & 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 (known 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 spots are, allowing doctors to focus in on specific areas.
Nuclear scanning is used to assess the following:
Blood circulation through the heart
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 & 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 503-261-4430.