A DEXA scan is the most accurate and most commonly used method for measuring bone loss. It is the best way for doctors to diagnose conditions like osteoporosis or osteopenia, as well as assess a patient’s risk of suffering a bone fracture.
DEXA bone density exams are primarily recommended if you have x-ray evidence of vertebral fracture, family history of osteporosis or hip fracture, or experienced a fracture after only mild trauma.
If you have hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, type 1 diabetes, use medications that are known to cause bone loss or are a post-menopausal woman not taking estrogen, a DXA scan should be performed.
During a DEXA scan patients lie on their backs and the machine passes over them. It is a non-invasive, painless procedure that measures your bone density. The machine uses very low dose x-rays with differing energy levels that get directed at the bones being scanned. The images produced allow the radiologist to determine your bone mineral density. Fewer x-rays pass through denser bone. This information generates tells doctors the average density of the bone. A low score indicates that the bone is more prone to fracture and some material of the bone has been lost.
Do not take calcium, vitamin D or multi-vitamin supplements for at least 24 hours before your scan. If you are taking medications for osteoporosis or osteopenia, check with your doctor to confirm whether you should skip your dose on the day of your scan.
You must remove all jewelry and any other metallic objects such as hearing aids, jeans with metal zippers, body piercings and removable dental work.