DEXA (Bone Densitometry)
What is DEXA Scan?
To accurately detect osteoporosis, doctors commonly use DEXA bone densitometry to measure bone mineral density (BMD). DEXA is a quick, painless procedure for measuring bone loss. Measurement of the lower spine and hips are most often done. If you are due to begin bone density screening, your provider will give you an order to have this
important test at a radiology center that will be covered by your insurance.
What are some common uses of this procedure?
DEXA bone densitometry is commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause but may also be found in men. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing bones to thin, become more fragile, and more likely to break.
The DEXA test can also assess your risk for developing fractures, and is effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that can cause bone loss. Bone density testing is recommended for:
- Post-menopausal women age 60 or older who have risk factors for developing osteoporosis
- Patients with a personal or maternal history of hip fracture or smoking
- Post-menopausal women who are tall (over 5 feet 7 inches) or thin (less than 125 pounds)
- Women who have hyperparathyroidism
- Women who have been on medications that are known to cause bone loss
How should I prepare for this procedure?
- Refrain from taking calcium supplements for at least 24 hours beforehand.
- Wear comfortable clothing and avoid garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal.
- Let your technologist know if you’ve recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT or radioisotope scan.
- Let your technologist know if there is a possibility you are pregnant.
What should I expect during this exam?
Depending on the parts of the body being examined, the test takes between 10 and 30 minutes.
- You may be asked to undress and put on a gown.
- You’ll lie on a padded table with an x-ray generator below and a detector (an imaging device) above. It is important that you remain as still as possible during the procedure to ensure a clear and useful image.
- When evaluating bone loss in the spine and hip where most osteoporosis-related fractures happen:
- Spine: During an examination of the spine, your legs will be supported on a padded box to flatten your pelvis and lower (lumbar) spine.
- Hip: The technologist will place your foot in a brace that rotates the hip inward.
- Forearm: The forearm can also be used as part of the examination.
- The detector is scanned over the area, generating images on a computer monitor.
What will I experience during this exam?
DEXA bone densitometry is a simple, painless, and non-invasive procedure. Once on the examination table, you may be asked to remain still and to hold an awkward position for a short period of time while the machine takes measurements.
How do they determine my score?
Your radiologist will forward your test results to our office. Your result will be in the form of a T score:
T score – This number shows the amount of bone you have compared to a young adult of the same gender with peak bone mass. A score above -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 is classified as osteopenia, the first stage of bone loss. A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis. It is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture.
How will I receive my results?
Once we receive your results, you will receive a letter in the mail with a list of recommendations to maintain good bone density. If you are in need of further testing, or if you need to begin medication, you will receive a call from one of our nurses.