Are Nuclear Stress Tests Really Harmless?

Many of us have had to undergo a nuclear stress test for medical purposes.  Whether for high blood pressure, irregular heart beat or for chest pains, we get a small amount of radioactive solution injected through an IV.  As the nuclear material travels through our veins, a technician follows the radioactive tracer through our veins to our heart.

Before they inject the nuclear solution into your veins, they tell you that it a very low dose of radiation and that it is perfectly safe.  It’s supposed to be no more dangerous than having a couple of x-rays taken in one day.  Perhaps the amount of radiation used in nuclear stress tests is not as little or safe as we are told.

Just ask forty-two year old Mike Apatow of Milford, Connecticut.  Apatow is a firefighter who recently experienced an increase in his blood pressure was sent by his doctor to have a nuclear stress performed.  He showed up at the testing center in the morning and underwent the test to help the doctor try to determine what was causing his sudden high blood pressure.

Later that day, Apatow was heading to another appointment and about to enter Interstate 84 in Newtown, Ct, when he passed a state police office.  Just after Apatow drove past, the state trooper pulled out, turned on his lights and pulled him over.  The fireman knew he wasn’t speeding or disobeying any other traffic laws, so he curiously asked the officer why he pulled him over.

Apatow was surprised when the trooper told him that he had set off a radioactivity detector.  Fortunately, the doctor that performed the nuclear test had given him a form to carry that spelled out the procedure and the radioactive material used.

The courageous firefighter said he wasn’t concerned about his safety in regards to the radioactivity, but he was surprised that the state trooper had a radiation detector in his car and that his low dosage had set it off.  A spokesperson for the state police confirmed that many of their cars are equipped with radiation detectors as part of Homeland Security measures.  He also explained that they are very sensitive.

I can’t help but wonder how much radiation is used in these nuclear stress tests, considering that hours later they are able to trigger a detector by merely driving past another car several dozen feet away.  If the radiation is that potent to trigger the police detector, then what harm is it causing to the tissue surrounding it, especially if the exposure lasts for hours?  They say it’s safe, but how do they really know?

Knowing the potency of the radiation used and how long it stays in the body, I’m going to think twice before undergoing another nuclear stress test.  There has to be other ways to make a diagnosis and I for one will do my best to find out what they are.