Bone Density Scan (DEXA)

Bone density scan, also known as a DEXA scan (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) is a simple and non-invasive x-ray procedure used to measure bone mineral density. Measurements of the lower spine, hips and sometimes the wrist are taken. The procedure is painless and radiation exposure is minimal. This is the exam to diagnose or exclude osteoporosis.

Bone density scans are commonly recommended for but not limited to the following patients:

  • Are a post-menopausal women and not taking hormone replacment therapy.
  • Have a history of smoking.
  • Have experienced bone loss or bone trauma.
  • Have a family history of osteoporosis, fracture(s), hyperthyroidism and other related clinical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease.
  • Use certain medication known to contribute to bone loss as a side effect such as steroids/prednisone, dilantin, some barbiturates and thyroid replacement medications.

Technology / Equipment

General Electric Prodigy Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry bone densitometry scanner. This scanner has a 300 lbs maximum software calculation limit.

Exam Preparations

  • On the day of your exam, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes such as pants with an elastic waist.
  • Avoid wearing clothing with buttons, zippers and belts as metal will interfere with the scanner.
  • Do not take calcium supplements the day before and the day of your DEXA scan.
  • On the day of your appointment, please bring a list of medications you are currently taking.
  • Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your exam for registration, and bring your health insurance information to your appointment.
  • You may have to wait 10-14 days before undergoing a bone density test if you have had another diagnostic imaging study which required the use of a contrast agent such as a barium enema, an upper/lower GI series or esophagram; or have been injected with a contrast material for a computed tomography (CT) scan or radioisotope scan for a bone or PET/CT scan.
  • Because of the risk of radiation exposure to the fetus, pregnant women are advised to avoid this procedure.

Patient Experience

During a Bone Density scan, you will lie fully clothed on the DEXA scanner table. A technologist will be present to operate the scanner and assist you. DEXA scans are painless and require no injections or sedation. The technologist may place special pads underneath or along your body to ensure proper positioning and comfort.

You will be asked to lie still for several minutes while the arm of the DEXA scanner passes over your body. You may hear a low humming noise during the scan. When the scan is complete, the technologist will help you off the table.

After The Exam

Once the exam is completed, the images and computer generated calculations are analyzed by a board certified radiologist who generates a diagnostic report outlining the findings. This report is then sent to your physician within 24 hours. Your physician will consider the radiologist's interpretation of your scan in the context of your overall care.

Additional Information

If you would like additional information on this procedure, we recommend visiting the Bone Densitometry (DEXA Scan) section of RadiologyInfo.org.