A DEXA bone scan is neither complicated nor invasive. DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and the only thing that’s complicated about DEXA is its name.
A DEXA scan is part of the evaluation process for bone strength, especially osteoporosis. It measures bone mineral density (BMD) and assists in determining whether the patient has bone loss – and, if so, to what extent.
How a DEXA Bone Density Scan Works
Patients undergoing a DEXA bone scan are given a small dose of ionizing radiation. This radiation will produce images of the bones in the hip area and lower spine for measuring bone density and bone loss. The bones being examined absorb a low-dose X-ray that penetrates through soft tissue and bone.
When the scan is complete, the doctor subtracts the total amount of soft tissue from the total amount of bone and tissue combined. The amount that remains is the T-score of your BMD.
Who Needs a Bone Density Test?
Those at risk of bone loss should receive a DEXA bone scan. Primarily, the test is designated for women who are 65 years of age or older. Many experts say that men who are 70 years of age or older should also have the test done.
However, women and men who are younger and have specific risks associated with bones should consider having the test performed, especially those over the age of 50.
Heredity plays a part in determining whether or not to have a DEXA bone scan. If you have a parent who has broken a hip in the past, then you should undergo the procedure. Your doctor can give you further advice regarding at what age you should begin to have a BMD scan done regularly.
Additionally, a person with rheumatoid arthritis is at risk of reduced bone density, as is a person of slight build and anyone who has health conditions that are generally associated with osteoporosis.
Other people with a high risk of osteoporosis and low bone density include those who have broken bones easily in the past, smokers, heavy drinkers, and anyone who has taken corticosteroid drugs for an extended period of time.
What to Expect in a DEXA Bone Density Scan
Prior to a DEXA bone scan, a patient does little to prepare. There are no special eating restrictions; however, if the patient takes calcium supplements, it is advisable to stop taking the vitamin at least 24 hours prior to the scan.
Persons who’ve undergone a bone scan that required contrast aren’t safe to have the scan again for at least 10 to 14 days afterward. As with other scans, women who are pregnant shouldn’t have the scan and should notify the technologist if there is a possibility of pregnancy.
What Happens During a DEXA Bone Density Scan
First, the patient lies down on the table and will be asked to take a breath and hold it while the image is being taken – and to remain very still. This is to ensure that a clear image is produced, not blurry or fuzzy.
It only takes 10 to 30 minutes for a DEXA bone scan to be completed. The scan is painless, and the patient will likely be advised by the doctor to have the test conducted each year.
How a Bone Density Scan Is Evaluated
Your doctor will then diagnose your bone density using two scores. The T-score determines your fracture risk and compares the amount of bone measured in your body compared to the optimum bone mass for your gender.
- If your T-score is above -1, you have normal bone mass.
- If it’s between -1 and -2.5, then your condition is osteopenia (low bone mass).
- A score that is below -2.5 is considered osteoporosis.
A Z-score compares the amount of bone you have as compared to what others of the same age and gender have. Size is also a consideration.
Contact a Bone Density Scanning Center Today
The board-certified, fellowship-trained radiologists at Independent Imaging can perform a thorough and professional DEXA bone scanfor you. If you’re at risk or if you’re of age, contact us for an appointment and let us determine the strength of your bones.
Call us today at (561) 795-5558 for more information or to schedule an appointment, or fill out our quick online appointment request formnow. We look forward to conducting an accurate bone density test for you, so your doctor can monitor the strength of your bones and help keep them strong and healthy.