What is Nuclear Cardiology?Nuclear cardiology is the use of safe, small amounts of radioactive material, called tracers, to take very accurate pictures or video of the heart. Nuclear cardiology can not only provide excellent images of the heart muscle, but it can also tell doctors about the function and health of the heart. That is to say, nuclear cardiology doesn't just examine what the heart looks like, it sees how well the heart muscle is working. It's very useful for diagnosing heart disease, identifying damage from a heart attack, or evaluating if a patient's treatments are working well enough. During a nuclear cardiology exam, the tracer is injected into a vein and taken up by the heart. Then a special camera, called a gamma camera, takes pictures of the tracer moving within the beating heart. The images can show areas where heart muscle has been damaged or scarred due to a heart attack, or where blood flow within the heart may not be adequate due to blocked arteries. There are several different kinds of nuclear cardiology tests and each looks at something slightly different. The most commonly used test is called myocardial perfusion. Others include ventriculography, to show the chambers of the heart; PET scans, to monitor blood flow; and MUGA scans, to examine how well the heart is pumping. Nuclear cardiology tests do not hurt, and do not require anything more than an injection. They are a powerful source of information for patients suffering from heart disease or coronary artery disease.
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