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Nitrogen n-13 ammonia, diagnostic, per study dose, up to 40 millicuries

HCPCS code

Name of the Procedure:

Nitrogen-13 Ammonia PET Scan


A Nitrogen-13 ammonia PET scan is an imaging test used to evaluate blood flow to the heart muscle. It involves injecting a small amount of radioactive nitrogen-13 ammonia into the bloodstream and taking pictures with a PET scanner. This helps doctors assess how well blood is flowing through the heart.


This procedure is primarily used to diagnose and evaluate coronary artery disease (CAD) and other conditions affecting blood flow to the heart. The goal is to detect areas of reduced blood flow and assess the severity and extent of any blockages or other abnormalities, helping to guide treatment decisions.


  • Chest pain or discomfort suggesting angina
  • Shortness of breath not explained by other conditions
  • Known or suspected coronary artery disease
  • Assessment of myocardial perfusion (blood flow to heart muscle)


  • Fasting for at least 4-6 hours before the test.
  • Avoiding caffeine and tobacco for at least 24 hours prior.
  • Informing the healthcare team about all medications being taken; some may need to be temporarily stopped.
  • Possible preliminary blood tests to check renal function and blood sugar levels.

Procedure Description

  1. You will lie on a table connected to a PET scanner.
  2. A small amount of nitrogen-13 ammonia is injected via an IV line.
  3. The PET scanner detects the radioactive tracer and takes images of your heart.
  4. You may be asked to perform light exercise or be given a medication to stress the heart.
  5. More images are taken to compare blood flow at rest and under stress conditions.

Tools/Equipment: PET scanner, intravenous line, nitrogen-13 ammonia tracer.

Anesthesia/Sedation: Usually not required, though some patients might receive medication to help them relax.


The entire procedure typically takes about 1-2 hours, including preparation and imaging.


Performed in a hospital or specialized outpatient imaging center equipped with a PET scanner.


  • Nuclear medicine physician
  • Cardiology specialists
  • Radiologic technologists
  • Nursing staff

Risks and Complications

  • Radiation exposure, though minimal and generally considered safe.
  • Allergic reaction to the tracer, which is rare.
  • Discomfort at the injection site.
  • Rarely, complications from medications used to stress the heart, like dizziness or palpitations.


  • Non-invasive way to assess blood flow to the heart.
  • Helps in diagnosing coronary artery disease and planning appropriate treatments.
  • Can help avoid more invasive procedures if the results are normal.
  • Benefits are often realized immediately in aiding diagnosis and treatment planning.


  • Most patients can return to normal activities immediately.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the tracer from the body.
  • Follow any specific instructions provided by the healthcare team, such as avoiding heavy exercise for the rest of the day.


  • Exercise stress test
  • Coronary angiography
  • CT angiography
  • MRI heart scan

Pros and Cons: PET scans provide detailed images that other tests might not, but they are more expensive and involve radiation. Alternative tests might be less detailed but sufficient for diagnosis, potentially less costly, and involve no radiation.

Patient Experience

  • Mild discomfort from the IV line.
  • You may feel some stress from the exercise or medications designed to increase heart workload.
  • The imaging process itself is painless.
  • Post-procedure, normal activities are typically resumed with minimal recovery needed.

Pain management is not usually necessary, but discomfort can be alleviated with over-the-counter pain relief if needed.

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