Will the radioactive tracer used in a gamma scan of my heart cause problems to my liver?

Hi. My doctor said that I should take a gamma scan of my heart and as you know they will use a radioactive drug to take the photo. But I have fatty liver disease so I think that radioactive tracer may hurt my liver. Is it correct? What’s the alternative option? Thank you.

Submitted by Erfan from Tehran on 12/31/2015

Assuming the “gamma scan of the heart” means nuclear stress test, the stress agent used, whilst it is radioactive, will not have effect on the liver.

Nuclear stress test is commonly used in the medical community in order to assess if there is enough blood flow to the heart. It is a very well established test and has been widely used for the last 20 years. Whilst you will be exposed to a small amount of radiation, the potential information obtain could be beneficial to you and your doctor in terms of the management of your medical condition.

There are other forms of stress test available that do not involve radiation, depending on your doctor’s office expertise, such as plain treadmill, ECG stress test, and exercise stress echocardiography or dobutamine stress echocardiography.

You can always discuss your concern(s) with your ordering physician. The risk of a nuclear / gamma stress test is very very low, and often the test that your doctor is most familiar with is the test of choice.