Exercise Stress Scan

An Exercise Stress Scan is a test that helps your doctor see if you have coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart muscle. If the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen, it can cause chest pain, also known as "angina."

During the test, two radioactive tracers, MIBI and Thallium, are used to take pictures of the heart. These tracers are injected into your bloodstream and travel to the heart muscle through the coronary arteries. The pictures we then take of your heart will help your doctor decide if you have coronary artery disease.

Preparation for Your Exam

Do not eat or drink anything containing caffeine for 12 hours before the test. This includes coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Please refer to the chart for specifics.

  • Nothing by mouth after midnight prior to the exam.

  • No Beta Blockers for 24 hours prior to exam.

  • Do not smoke for two hours before this test.

  • Do not eat anything at all for at least two hours before this test.

  • You may drink water at any time.

  • Follow your doctor's instructions regarding medication. You may be asked to decrease or stop certain medicines for this test. You should resume your regular medicines after completion of the test. Please bring a complete listing of all your medicines with you.

  • If you are diabetic and take insulin, please consult the doctor who manages your insulin for advice about doses before and after this test. Please bring your insulin and syringes to the hospital so you can take the dose recommended by your doctor.

  • Discontinue Theophylline derivatives for 48 hours prior to exam.

  • Please wear comfortable clothes that break at the waist (a shirt or a blouse) and flat walking shoes or sneakers. Sneakers are strongly recommended. Electrodes will be placed on your chest so that your heart can be monitored during exercise. Women must remove their bras for the procedure. If you wear an unusually large or small size of clothing, please bring your own T-shirt and pants. You will be working hard during this test. Comfortable clothing will make things easier for you.

During the Exam

There are three parts to the test: taking pictures, exercising, and taking more pictures.

  1. For the first part of the test, we will put an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. This will feel like a pin-prick, like when you have blood drawn. The Thallium is then injected through the IV. You will not feel anything from this injection. We will wait 15 minutes while the Thallium circulates in your body. Then, for about 30 minutes while you are lying down, we will take pictures of your heart with a special camera.

  2. We will take your blood pressure many times during this part of the test. You will not feel anything when the MIBI is injected.

  3. The third part of the test is taking more pictures, this time with the MIBI circulating in the blood. You will lie down as before and the camera will take pictures for about 30 minutes.

  4. The test takes a total of 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

Safety Issues

Nuclear Medicine procedures are very safe. Your body is able to very quickly eliminate the radioactive materials that are used. The radiation dose from this test is about 2.7 rem. This is about the same dose that you would get from some routine X-rays.

Making an Appointment

When you call, we'll ask you for basic information such as your Social Security number. We'll ask you what type of test you need to schedule, and will schedule you for the best possible time. If you need to reschedule your exam, you can call us back and we'll be happy to arrange a better time for you.

When you call to schedule your exam, we'll also give you important information about preparing for the exam. If your doctor has scheduled the exam for you, and you have questions regarding the preparation or the procedure itself, you can call the imaging department where your procedure is being performed (please refer to our 'Locations' page for exact phone numbers).

Your physician will have several tasks to perform:

Complete the necessary paperwork to order the test (similar to writing a prescription for medication)

Fax, mail, or place the order in our computer system

Call us to schedule a test for you or have your physician call us directly

Obtaining Your Images

Exam Image Availability

DRC's state-of-the-art PACS technology offers you immediate access to the images of your radiologic exam. No longer does your physician have to wait to have copies of your films made. Although we can still print your X-ray on film for you with just 24 hours notice, your physician can now review your exam images immediately via the Internet. We offer safe and secure web access for your physician through Specialty Networks. Your privacy and HIPAA compliance is assured.

Images on a CD

If your physician prefers, the digital images from your study can be written to a CD-ROM, giving him/her a permanent record that can be accessed easily and quickly via a computer. CDs hold multiple studies and take up significantly less space than the traditional film in the brown envelope. A 24-hour notice is also requested to create this digital record for you.

Versatile Image Viewing Options

Internet access to your studies for your doctor is available immediately after your pictures are taken. Copies of your images can be obtained on a CD or on film with 24 hours notice.

Both Internet and CD viewing offer your physician the ability to digitally adjust your images in ways not possible with traditional X-ray film. Using the computer, the image can be made lighter or darker or zoomed for better visualization of a particular portion, for example. Your physician can fine-tune the images to accommodate his or her preferences.

Obtaining Copies of Your Images

To receive a CD or film copies of exam images, please follow these steps:

1. Call the location where your examination was performed (please refer to the locations page). Please provide your name and other identifying information along with the study being requested. With 24 hours notice, we can either create a CD-ROM or print a film for you. Our representative at the imaging center will provide you with the times available to pick up the exam.

2. To protect your privacy, please be sure to bring a picture ID when you pick up your CD/films, you will have to sign a Medical Images Release form when receiving your CD/films. If anyone else picks up your CD/films for you, please be sure to give him or her your written authorization to release your information to him or her.

3. If you would like us to send a copy of your study to a physician outside the DRC system, we will need a signed release from you along with the study you would like sent and the receiving doctor's name and address. You can fax or deliver us that release in the form of a signed letter at the fax number listed on the locations page. Please allow us plenty of time to send your films.

Any Costs

Currently the first set of films is provided at no cost to the patient. There is no charge for CD-ROM's and, of course, the Internet is always free.


For the convenience of our patients, we offer Imaging Scans at several DRC locations:

Battlefield Imaging
Chattanooga Outpatient Center
Diagnostic Center
Diagnostic PET/CT of Chattanooga
Hutcheson Medical Center
Tennessee Imaging & Vein Center