Nuclear cardiac stress testing popular at Veterans Memorial Hospital

Nuclear cardiac stress testing offered at VMH ... February was National Heart Month, and the number-one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. The Veterans Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehab Unit has been offering nuclear cardiac stress tests to help detect heart disease for over a decade. Pictured above in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit is patient Charolette Christianson of Waukon as she prepares for her nuclear cardiac stress test, assisted by, left to right, Dr. Dave Schwartz; Amy Rolfs, RN, Cardiac Rehab Nurse; and Katie Hackman, Nuclear Medicine Technologist with Shared Medical Technology. Local nuclear cardiac stress testing and cardiac rehabilitation allows Veterans Memorial Hospital to provide cardiac care with state-of-the-art technology, right here at home. Submitted photo.

Two sets of images for nuclear cardiac stress testing ... An advantage to nuclear cardiac stress testing is that the test involves taking two sets of images of the heart - one at rest and one after the heart is stressed by exercise or medication. Pictured above is patient Charolette Christianson with Nuclear Medicine Technologist Katie Hackman taking a second image of the heart following exercise on the treadmill. Submitted photo.

Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon began nuclear cardiac stress testing within its Cardiac Rehab unit over a decade ago, in 2008. The convenience of having these nuclear tests offered on a local level has been well received in the community since it began.

Nuclear cardiac stress testing offers two different methods, both highly effective in detecting heart disease. These two forms of nuclear stress testing are called the Exercise Nuclear Stress Test and Lexiscan Nuclear Imaging. Both methods can increase the likelihood of finding heart disease by 20% when compared to traditional treadmill stress tests.

The number-one cause of death in the United States continues to be heart disease. The term heart disease is used to describe several different conditions. The data collected from a nuclear stress test is very useful in detecting these conditions. This data includes:

· The size of the heart chambers.
· How well the heart is pumping blood.
· Where there is any damage to the heart.
· If there is any blockage or narrowing of the arteries to the heart.
· The effectiveness of any current treatments.

While the traditional treadmill stress testing is still very effective, the nuclear cardiac testing has many advantages.  This test involves taking two sets of images of the heart - one at rest and one after the heart is stressed either by exercise or medication. The aim is to find out if any areas of the heart muscle are not receiving enough blood flow during exercise. The additional information obtained from a nuclear stress test is beneficial for patients with known coronary artery disease and those with vague or non-classic cardiac symptoms.

The process of having either the Exercise Nuclear Stress Test or the Lexiscan Nuclear Imaging stress test takes approximately four hours total. The patient receiving the Exercise Nuclear Stress Test does still need to exercise on the treadmill while being monitored by the physician. The Lexiscan, or chemical stress test, is a method that can be used on those unable to exercise due to arthritis of the knees, hips, or due to poor exercise tolerance. These tests do have their limitations and some patients with severe COPD or Asthma should not undergo the chemical stress testing. It will be up to the provider to determine which test is right for the patient. Prior to this service being added to Veterans Memorial Hospital, many patients would have to go to a larger facility and have a cardiologist perform these tests. These new nuclear stress testing methods, as well as the traditional treadmill stress tests, are offered at Veterans Memorial Hospital on an outpatient basis. Any medical provider can write an order for these tests to be scheduled at the hospital. Nuclear stress testing is available Thursdays by local providers. Traditional treadmill stress tests are available any day of the week.

Talk to a healthcare provider if experiencing symptoms of heart disease and before starting an exercise regimen to determine if a stress test is needed. For more information, call the Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.

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