Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is a technology that uses a very low amount of X-ray energy to detect the presence of osteoporosis. Bone mineral content tends to begin declining in people who are in their mid-30s or older, and the loss of bone tissue accelerates in women after menopause. Reduction of mineral content, characterized by porous and brittle bones, is known as osteoporosis. It’s a potentially serious condition because it makes bones more vulnerable to fractures and ultimately can lead to diminished mobility and independence.
Click here to take a test to calculate your probability of fracture with your bone mineral density (BMD)
DEXA scanning can identify low bone density in patients at an early stage, enabling doctors to prescribe appropriate treatment before the condition worsens. Images of the lower spine and hips are most often used in checking for osteoporosis.
Click here to view a printable DEXA brochure
What to expect
You will be asked to lie quietly on your back on a padded table while a movable arm passes over your body. A technician will remain with you and you will feel no sensations from the exam, which typically takes 15 to 30 minutes.
You should not take any calcium supplements 24 hours before your exam. Wear comfortable clothing that has no metal zippers or buttons in the abdominal or pelvic areas. If you do not have clothing without metal components, we may ask you to change into a gown.
If you have recently undergone a barium study of any kind—such as an upper gastrointestinal (UGI) tract exam, barium enema or computed tomography (CT) scan -you should wait at least 14 days before a DEXA exam is performed. That waiting period is important to prevent any residual barium from interfering with your DEXA exam. Routine diagnostic X-rays ordinarily produce no side effects, but repeated exposure to X-rays can cause some cell damage. Please let us know before your exam begins if you may be pregnant. Although the adult body soon repairs itself, exposure poses greater danger to young children and unborn fetuses. Modifications may be made in the exam to safely accommodate women during their first trimester of pregnancy.
Side effects and complications
No side effects or complications are associated with DEXA scanning.
The DEXA exam itself requires no follow-up care. Your physician will receive the results of your exam and will discuss any treatment recommendations with you.