Risks

A nuclear stress test is generally safe, and complications are rare. As with any medical procedure, there is a risk of complications, including:

  • Allergic reaction. Though rare, you could be allergic to the radioactive dye that's injected during a nuclear stress test.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Arrhythmias brought on during a stress test usually go away shortly after you stop exercising or the medication wears off. Life-threatening arrhythmias are rare.
  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction). Although extremely rare, it's possible that a nuclear stress test could cause a heart attack.
  • Dizziness or chest pain. These symptoms can occur during a stress test. Other possible signs and symptoms include nausea, shakiness, headache, flushing, shortness of breath and anxiety. These signs and symptoms are usually mild and brief, but tell your doctor if they occur.
  • Low blood pressure. Blood pressure may drop during or immediately after exercise, possibly causing you to feel dizzy or faint. The problem should go away after you stop exercising.
Nov. 16, 2017
References
  1. Cardiac nuclear medicine. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=cardinuclear. Accessed Sept. 8, 2017.
  2. What is stress testing? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stress/. Accessed Sept. 8, 2017.
  3. Papaioannou GI, et al. Exercise radionuclide myocardial perfusion imaging in the diagnosis and prognosis of coronary heart disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 8, 2017.
  4. Yanowitz FG, et al. Exercise ECG testing: Performing the test and determining the ECG results. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 8, 2017.
  5. Stress nuclear study. American College of Cardiology. https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/2013/01/Video-Stress-Nuclear-Study. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
  6. Arruda-Olson AM, et al. Stress testing to determine prognosis of coronary heart disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
  7. Coronary heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cad. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
  8. Bonow RO, et al., eds. Nuclear cardiology. In: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.
  9. ACC/AHA/ASNC guidelines for the clinical use of cardiac radionuclide imaging—executive summary. Circulation. 2003;108:1404.
  10. Mankad R (expert opinion). Rochester, Minn. Sept. 14, 2017.