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Stress Testing Specialist

Northwest Houston Heart Center

Cardiology located in Tomball, Cypress, Magnolia, & The Woodlands, TX

All stress testing doesn’t produce the same quality results. When it comes to accurately diagnosing coronary artery disease, the gold standard is nuclear stress testing using a cardiac PET scan. Cardiologists A. Adnan Aslam, MD, FACC, FSCAI, and Roy Norman, DO of Northwest Houston Heart Center, use the PET scan to diagnose coronary artery disease at the earliest possible stage by a non-invasive test. To schedule an appointment, call the office in Tomball, Cypress, Magnolia, or The Woodlands, Texas, or use the online booking feature today.

Stress Testing Q & A

When would I need stress testing?

A stress test is a diagnostic procedure that shows how your heart functions when forced to work harder than normal. Northwest Houston Heart Center uses stress testing to determine the cause of symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and palpitations.

Stress testing helps diagnose:

  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart valve disease
  • Cardiomyopathy

Your provider may also ask you to take a stress test to evaluate the effectiveness of your current treatment or to learn if you’re ready to exercise again after a heart attack.

Northwest Houston Heart Center is one of only a few centers in the Houston area with a dedicated cardiac PET scanner (positron emission tomography). These scans are one of the most advanced and accurate diagnostic tools for coronary artery disease and are more accurate than the traditional nuclear stress tests. 

Northwest Houston Heart Center was the third center in the Houston Metro area to offer cardiac PET scans and has been providing this service for over ten years. Dr. Aslam is certified in the Certification Board of Nuclear Cardiology and Northwest Houston Heart Center’s PET Scan facility is an Accredited Facility by Intersocietal Accreditation Commission.

What happens during exercise stress testing?

When you have an exercise stress test, you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary cycle to increase your heart rate. Before the test, your provider puts electrodes on your chest and connects them to an EKG machine so they can monitor your heart’s electrical activity during the test.

You start exercising at a slow speed, and your provider increases the intensity at regular intervals. The test continues until you reach a peak heart rate determined by your provider or you develop symptoms and need to stop.

If you can’t tolerate exercise, you can still have a stress test. Instead of exercise, your provider gives you medication that raises your heartbeat.

What is nuclear stress testing?

A nuclear stress test is a specialized procedure that combines a cardiac PET (positron emission tomography) scan with your stress test. You have two scans, one immediately after your stress test to get an image of your heart when it’s hard at work.

Then you have the second scan at another time when your heart is at its normal resting rate. Comparing the two images gives your provider vital information about your heart’s function.

What is a cardiac PET scan?

When you have a cardiac PET scan, your provider injects a radioactive substance called a radiotracer (tracer). The tracers attach to blood cells and travel to your heart. The PET scan is an advanced imaging technique that picks up the energy released by the tracers and uses it to create a picture of your heart.

The cardiac PET scan shows dramatic details about the flow of blood into your heart muscles. These images reveal:

  • Damaged muscles that can survive with immediate treatment
  • Specific areas that don’t get enough blood
  • Blocked arteries (coronary artery disease)
  • Scarred heart tissue from a heart attack
  • Risk of having a heart attack

Nuclear stress testing using a cardiac PET scan is more accurate than a routine exercise stress test or standard nuclear stress tests that take the images using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans. 

If you have questions about stress testing, call Northwest Houston Heart Center, or book an appointment online today.