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Your doctor has requested a Cardiac Perfusion scan. This booklet will answer some of the questions you may have.  

What is a Cardiac Perfusion Scan?  

A cardiac perfusion scan measures the amount of blood in your heart muscle at rest and during exercise. 

What is involved?  

A cardiac perfusion scan is done in the nuclear medicine department. The test is done by a stress technologist and a technologist specially trained in nuclear medicine under close supervision of an onsite doctor. 

This procedure is normally performed over two separate days and requires some preparation. The first part will take approximately two hours and the second part approximately three hours. A complete description of the cardiac perfusion scan follows below. 

The first day: 

When you arrive, the technologist will explain the test to you and give you time to ask any questions you may have about the procedure. 

A technologist will inject a small amount of radioactivity into a vein in your arm. There are no known side effects from this injection. You will then be asked to return to the waiting room to eat the fatty meal you were asked to bring. This is encouraged, as eating will improve the images that will be acquired of your heart. You will have approximately 30 minutes while the radioactivity concentrates in the muscle of your heart.  

After the waiting period is complete, the technologist will then bring you into an imaging room and ask you to lie down on special table. The technologist will then position a special camera very close to your chest. This camera will then rotate very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes while images are taken of your heart.  

Following these images, you will be allowed to leave for the day, but will be required to return another day for the second part of the test. This date will be confirmed with you prior to your departure. 

The second day: 

When you arrive, the technologist will explain the test again to you and give you time to ask any questions you may have about the procedure. 

A technologist will place a small flexible tube into a vein in your arm. This will be used for any injections you will receive for this appointment. You will return to the waiting room until the stress technologist calls you for the second part of the procedure.  

If you are able to walk on a treadmill, you will be asked to do so. Your heart rate will be checked while you are walking with standard electrocardiography. You will exercise for a period of time and the radiotracer will be administered to you. 

In situations where you are unable to walk on the treadmill, a special medicine called dipyridamole will be infused to “exercise” your heart. With this medication you may experience dizziness, flushing, headache, chest pain or nausea. After the medicine takes effect, a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected that will travel to your heart muscle. There are no known side effects to this injection. Towards the end of this part, another medication called aminophylline will be injected as an antidote to cancel out the effect of the dipyridamole that you received earlier.  

You will then be asked to wait in the waiting room for 30 to 40 minutes while the radioactivity concentrates in the muscle of your heart. At this point, you will be allowed to eat the fatty meal that you have brought with you. This is encouraged, as eating will improve the set of images that will be acquired of your heart. 

A technologist will then bring you to an imaging room and more images of your heart will take place like day 1. If possible, additional images with you lying on your stomach will also be acquired. Once all of your images have been completed and the technologist has verified them, you will be free to go home or return to your hospital room. You should not expect to experience any further side-effects from this procedure. 

Do I need to prepare for the scan?  

The day of the exam  

  • Bring your health card  
  • You should bring a complete list of the medications that you are currently taking. 
  • Please wear, or bring with you, comfortable shoes and loose shorts or pants suitable for exercise. Refrain from wearing anything metal. Please leave all valuables at home. 
  • Since there may be a few hours waiting time between imaging during this procedure, it may be beneficial to bring some reading material. There is Wi-Fi available. 
  • Please bring a fatty meal (e.g., 3% milk, can of Ensure, or high fat yogurt), since the technologist will require you to eat a small amount of food before imaging your heart. Please do not eat anything until you are instructed to do so. 
  • Please notify our booking office at the time of scheduling your appointment if you have any concerns regarding claustrophobia, lying still, require a mechanical lift for transfer to the imaging bed, have a language barrier or any other special needs, so that appropriate arrangements can be made ahead to provide you with the best possible care. 

48 hours before your appointment: 

You will receive instructions from the booking office concerning the following medications: 

  • Aminophylline, (Phyllocontin, Phyllocontin 350), Oxtriphylline, (Choledyl), Theophylline (Quibron-150, Uniphyl, Theodur, Pentoxifylline (Trental), any beta-blocker or calcium channel blocker medications 

24 hours before your appointment: 

  • Do not take Viagra, Cialis, Aggrenox (Dipyridamole + Asa), Persantine 
  • Do not take any medication that contains caffeine or codeine, such as: 222, 282, 292, Anacin, Asacol, Darvon, Dristan, Excedrine, Fiorinal, Lenotec 1, 2, 3, Midol, No Doz, Tylenol 1,2,3,4, Vanquish, Vivarin, Sinutab with codeine, appetite control pills. 
  • Do not take caffeinated or decaffeinated drinks or foods such as coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, chocolate, etc. 
  • Do not take: Imdur (Isosorbide mononitrate), Isordil (Isosorbide Dinitrate), NitroDur, Transderm, Minitran, Nitropaste, Nitrong. 

4 hours before your appointment: 

  • Do not eat or drink anything. Diabetic patients may have a plain dry toast and / or a small amount of juice. (sips of water are permitted) 
  • If you need to take nitroglycerine tablets or spray, please do so, but please notify the technologist. 

Will it hurt?  

Only the pinprick of the injection needle may hurt a bit. You may have had a blood test in the past. This is much the same.  

If medicine to simulate exercise is used, you may have symptoms of mild nausea, headache, dizziness, flushing, or chest pain (angina). These symptoms only last a few minutes. 

Is the radiation dangerous?  

The injection contains a small amount of radioactive tracer which emits gamma rays (these are similar to X-rays) which can be detected by our scanner. The radiation dose is very low and will disappear by itself after two days. The results of your scan will give your doctor useful information about your condition and will help them plan your treatment. The benefits of having the scan far outweigh any potential risk from the small radiation dose.  

Other Risks? 

This test is performed in a controlled environment under the supervision of a physician. 

The risk of exercise depends on the condition of your heart and your general level of health. The risks include: 

  • Fainting, Chest pain, An irregular heartbeat, Heart attack 

Do I need to do anything after the scan?  

No special precautions are needed after the scan. If you are travelling across any borders within seven days after your scan, please ask us for further advice. Border crossings and airports have very sensitive radiation detectors which may pick up tiny amounts of radioactivity remaining within your body. We will give you a letter that you can show to customs officials at border crossings or airports.  

Is there anything I should tell the staff before the injection?  

Please tell us if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

What about breastfeeding? 

Breast feeding must be interruption of 4 hours after the exam, during which time one milk meal should be pumped and discarded. Prepare for your exam accordingly. 

How will I get the results of my scan?  

A specially trained doctor will examine the pictures. This is normally done soon after the end of the scan. A report is then sent to the doctor who asked us to do the scan. Your doctor will normally receive the report within one week. You will also have access to the report on MyChart as soon as it is released. 

If you have questions about the scan results or report, please contact your doctor directly. They are best able to interpret the report for you. 

Will this test cost me money? 

No. This test is paid for by the healthcare system. The test costs several hundred dollars, so please notify the department at 613-761-4831 if you cannot make your appointment. 

What should I do if I cannot make my appointment? 

If you cannot make you appointment, it is important that you notify the department at 613-761-4831 as soon as possible. Failure to make your appointment results in wasting of expensive materials that are ordered especially for your appointment and also reduces availability to other patients. Missed appointments may also result in delays of your treatments. 

Directions and Parking 

General Campus  501 Smyth Road Main level Tel.: 613-761-4831, option 8 Hours: Mon. – Fri., 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Directions: From the main entrance, follow the signs on the main level (located at the public elevators). Patients may also ask for directions at the patient Information desk. 
Park in the parking garage which is located beside the main entrance just off Smyth Road. 

Parking instructions 

  • All parking lots are automated  
  • Take the parking ticket with you inside.  
  • When you have completed your appointment, you can pay by cash or credit card at one of our pay stations, or you can pay by credit card with express exit at the parking lot exit gates (the grace period after payment to leave facility is 20 minutes). 
  • Payment methods: 
    • Pay stations: Cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). 
  • Maximum parking fee is $13.00 

Visit The Ottawa Hospital’s website for additional directions and parking instructions and maps.

Last updated on: March 25th, 2022