Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nuclear Stress Test

Today I had my 2 part nuclear stress test. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is a test that measures blood flow to your heart muscle at rest and during stress. It is performed similar to a routine exercise stress test but provides images in addition to electrocardiograms. Let me expand a bit on this.

During a nuclear stress test, a radioactive substance is injected into your bloodstream. This substance mixes with your blood and travels to your heart. A special scanner — which detects the radioactive material in your heart — creates images of your heart muscle. Inadequate blood flow to any part of your heart will show up as a light spot on the images — because not as much of the radioactive substance is getting there.

About eight years back, I was under a ton of stress at my job and at work, and I went to the doctor complaining about chest pains. He ordered a routine stress test at that time. Turns out that there were small incidentals in the EKG that the specialist didn't like and ordered a new set of tests. I never received the notices in the mail.

Fast forward to 6 months ago, when we renegotiated out mortgage, our banking institution assured us that nothing would change and we would be able to renew our mortgage, with the negotiated rates, etc,etc. Turns out that the bank found out about this incompleted test and refuses to insure our mortgage until this test is complete.

The day finally came when I am to do the test. I am pumped and want this over and done with. The call me aside and explain to me that the camera is broken and is going to take a week to get repaired. We will have to reschedule. Man! I can't believe it. That's okay. I take advantage of this time to do more aerobic excercises and get ready for the fateful day so that I at least won't collapse on the treadmill.

Four weeks later, we got the message in the mail. We are scheduled for the Victoria Gerneral hospital for two days in a row. First day was a day for rest. I couldn't have any caffiene for 24 hours prior to these tests nor any food for 5 hours before hand. It was a piece of cake. The injection was given to me on time, and I was told to go and get something to eat and drink (caffiene was still a no no). An hour later they put me under this huge camera as I lay flat on my back on a camera bed. The bed moved me under the camera where images were taken for 20 minutes. Hardest part of this was I could not talk, cough, clear my throat, or fall asleep during the test. I had to remain absolutely still taking shallow breaths. I don't know about you, but if someone tells me I can't do something, for the next 20 minutes I lying there trying not to do it!

The next day, same routine except this time, they are injecting me with the radioactive substance while my heart is working at its my case, 152bpm. I was kind of concerned about the fact that they were injecting me with this radioactive "tracer", but that was also not an issue. Apparantly you receive about the same amount of radiation from a Nuclear Medicine test as you do from a diagnostic x-ray. On with the story.

Turns out that the substance didn't pass quality control and they had to make a new batch at the Health Sciences Centre. As they prepped me (IV and shaved my chest for the sticky electrodes), and got me all hooked up, the substance walked in and they tested it okay. Now the fun part, the treadmill. All I can say is I'm glad I used those three weeks to get ready for it. Man, am I out of shape. I didn't do too bad though. After all, I was running on an empty stomach and nothing to drink for over 24 hours. Then it was a repeat of the rest test.

All in all, it was not an unpleaseant experience. The staff as always, are absolutley incredible, friendly and professional. Now I just have to wait 2-3 weeks for the results and I can leave this chapter behind me! If you ever had any questions regarding this test, I hope I have answered them all and helped alleviate any pre-test jitters.

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