Why We Perform DEXA Scans
Physicians perform DEXA scans for a variety of reasons. The exam is most commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bone loss.
Physicians recommend DEXA scans for patients who fit into any of the following categories:
- Post-menopausal women who are not taking estrogen
- Individuals with personal or maternal histories of smoking or hip fractures
- Men with clinical conditions associated with bone loss, including chronic kidney or liver disease and rheumatoid arthritis
- Patients who have experienced a fracture or mild trauma
- Patients who take medications known to lead to bone loss
- Individuals who have high bone turnover
- Patients who have thyroid or parathyroid conditions
What to Expect During Your Procedure
During the DEXA body scan, you will lie on a padded table situated above an x-ray generator. An imaging device will be positioned above the examination table.
The technologist will ask you to remain as still as possible to ensure that the images are clear. Then the technologist will leave the room or walk behind a wall to start the x-ray, but they will be able to communicate with you during the procedure if need be.
While undergoing the procedure, the technologist will assess your spine and hips by passing a detector over the areas to generate images. They will also perform peripheral tests to assess your fingers, hands or forearms.
The DEXA bone density test typically takes 10 to 30 minutes.
How to Prepare for Your DEXA Scan
A DEXA scan requires very little preparation on the patient’s part. You should wear loose, comfortable clothes on the day of the procedure so that you can change into medical scrubs (top and pants) or a hospital gown easily. Leave metal jewelry and accessories at home, as you will need to remove them before the procedure.
On the day of the bone density scan, you can eat and drink as you normally would. However, you should not take calcium supplements for at least a full day leading up to the examination.
You will need to inform your doctor if you have had a barium exam recently. You should also let the physician know if you have been injected with a contrast material for a CT or radioisotope scan within the last 10 to 14 days, as any remaining material in your system can affect the results of the scan.