Adenosine thallium scan: A method of examining the heart to obtain information about the blood supply to the heart muscle. Special cameras take a series of pictures of the heart. Radioactive sestamibi is injected into the bloodstream and serves as a tracer. The tracer attaches to certain cells and makes them visible to the special camera. The tracer attaches to the muscle cells of the heart so the imaging camera can take pictures of the heart muscles. If an area of the heart does not receive an adequate flow of blood, the cells in the underserved area do not receive as much tracer and it appears as a darker area on the picture taken by the camera.
There are two parts to the adenosine sestamibi scan: the medication portion with pictures, and the rest portion with pictures. In lieu of exercise on a treadmill, the medication adenosine is given IV to exercise the heart.
The patient has an IV (intravenous) line placed in the arm, EKG patches will be applied to chest and connected to an EKG machine to monitor the heart and a blood pressure cuff will be placed on the arm to monitor blood pressure. The patient lies on a table and the medication, adenosine, will be given through the IV. The heart pumps faster and more strongly. The tracer is then given through the IV. This part of the scan lasts about 25 minutes.
A second set of pictures is taken approximately 3 hours after the injection. The patient should not eat but can drink fluids that do not contain caffeine. The entire test takes approximately 5 to 6 hours.
To prepare for the scan, the patient should not drink or eat anything containing caffeine for 24 hours before the test (this includes decaf coffee and chocolate) and should not eat or drink after midnight and not smoke on the day of the test. Most medications are taken as usual; however, some medications (e.g., theophylline, Persantine, and Trental) can interfere with the adenosine scan. One should seek special instructions from the doctor or nurse, as should all diabetics.
The amount of radiation from the scan is no more than from other x-ray tests. If there is any chance a woman might be pregnant, she should notify the doctor or nurse before the test is done. If a patient has asthma or other lung problems, he or she should also notify the doctor or nurse before the test is done. A medicine other than adenosine may be recommended.
Quick GuideHeart Disease: Causes of a Heart Attack
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Heart Health Newsletter
Healthy Heart Resources
Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012