The Difference Between PET Scans for Heart and Stress Tests

PET Scans for Heart and Stress Tests

Why Answer the Question: What is A Cardiac PET Scan Used For?

For many cardiac patients, knowing the difference between various treatment options and testing methods allows for more clarity regarding their health status and condition. Most cardiac patients have undergone a stress test and/or nuclear imaging, but not everyone knows the difference.

A stress test helps physicians understand the ability a patient’s heart has to withstand stress and exertion. When patients undergo a stress test, often it can shine a light on underlying problems, and the extent to which known problems are affecting the heart muscle.

Nuclear cardiac imaging, such as PET/CT scans, provide more in depth diagnostic results, and therefore, help cultivate treatment plans.

Cardiac PET Scans VS Stress Tests

A PET scan is quite different from a stress test. This leads some patients to ask, “What is a cardiac PET scan used for?” especially if they have already undergone a stress test.

A PET scan uses a small amount of radioactive material to identify abnormalities, such as impeded blood flow in the heart, scar tissue, risk of heart attack, etc. PET/CT allows physicians to better evaluate a patient’s condition before prescribing treatment or scheduling a surgery.

A stress test involves monitoring a heart’s electrical rhythms, as well as blood pressure, fatigue, and discomfort levels. The results of this type of test usually provide a good picture of what could be affecting the heart, but rarely provide a complete diagnosis. For example, stress tests can be used to diagnose coronary artery disease, but another test will be required to prove the diagnosis.

PET/CT clinically define existing cardiac issues and their physical causes by showing detailed imaging of the heart using a radioactive tracer. PET/CT scans are often the next course of action following a stress test.

Is A Cardiac PET Scan A Stress Test?

We now know that a cardiac PET/CT is not a stress test. To summarize, the major differences between a PET/CT scan and a stress test are:

  • Stress tests essentially use exercise as a way to measure heart health and function.
  • PET/CT scans show actual images of the heart and how it is functioning internally.

With better access to PET/CT imaging tests, physicians and patients alike can better understand what is causing their health issues, and what treatments will garner the best results. Cardiac Imaging provides ways for physicians to bring state of the art nuclear imaging technology directly to patients suffering from heart disease. Contact us today to learn more about our services.