As we age and get more tests done at the doctor's and dentist's office, we become acutely aware that our exposure to radiation is supposed to be minimum. That's why those who administer those tests wear lead jackets or stand behind a shield. Nuclear Cardiologists at the Avera Heart Hospital use radioactive material as a tool to detect blocked arteries.
Bob says, "I have no family problems. I'm the first of about 70 in my family to have a heart attack."
Bob walks on a treadmill while they check his blood pressure, heart rate and every minute the monitor spits out an EKG. The treadmill speeds up and elevates every 3 minutes. The goal is to get Bob's heart rate to 125 beats a minute.
Doctors placed a stent in one of his blocked arteries in Hawaii. His cardiologist here at home, Dr. Christopher Paa with North Central Heart, says that makes him a prime candidate for using nuclear medicine. They actually inject radioactive material, isotopes, into Bob's body. Once before the stress test, then 1 minute before he's done on the treadmill.
Dr. Paa says, "He still has some mild blockage down toward the tip of his heart in a different blood vessel and that's why we used this type of imaging. That and because of his previous heart attack."
The radioactive material is kept in a 8 pound lead lined box, even the syringe has a shield around it. The goal is to reduce our exposure to radiation as much as possible. The dose for this test is a little more than a chest X-Ray and it isn't all that dangerous because it isn't done frequently. This is Bob's 2nd stress test with isotope imaging. He's do for his 3rd in another 2 years.
Dr. Paa says, "The benefit outweighs the risk."
After the stress test, Bob rests for 15 minutes and then goes into the nuclear lab for cardiac imaging. Unlike a CT Scan that emits radiation to capture images, Bob is actually the one emitting it. He lays under a special machine with a camera that takes unique scans of the blood flow in the heart. Images were taken before the stress test and after.
Dr. Paa says, "It gives us a little bit more sensitivity on what is going on with the heart and discerning if there is a problem with circulation."
Bob says, "As long as there is something in there and they can find it, I don't care what they put in me."
And that's the goal of nuclear medicine; spot, diagnose and intervene before something deadly happens. Bob can definitely live with that!