DEXA (Bone Density Scan)

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis (literally porous bone) is a debilitating bone disease where bone loss progressively weakens the skeleton, which becomes extremely fragile.  Fractures may occur with minimal force or even a tight hug or cough can cause a fracture in someone with osteoporosis.

Detecting Osteoporosis

Most people with osteoporosis do not know they have it and the first sign of osteoporosis may be sustaining a fracture with only minimal force.

Low bone mineral density can be detected by a bone density scan before a fracture occurs.

The most useful test is a Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan, is often referred to as a "DEXA" scan.

How does DEXA work?

The bone density scanner uses small amounts of x-ray to produce images of the spine and hip and sometimes the wrist.

A computer will calculate the amount of bone you have, compare it to the expected normal values and determine your risk of fracture.

What can I expect?

Your age, height, weight and ethnicity will be entered into computer before your test.  This information is used to compare your results to the normal reference group/

The scanner is like a large examination table.  It is padded and comfortable.  You will be asked to lie on your back, remaining in your normal clothing.

Metallic objects, including jewellery and belt buckles, will need to be removed from the area of the body being examined.

The test is painless and usually takes about ten minutes.  You just need to lie still and breathe normally.

Is it safe?

Even though x-rays are used, the amount used is very small and is comparable to the naturally occurring radiation your are exposed to in one week.

You should always inform the DEXA technician if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.

Is there any preparation?

There is no special preparation.

You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire that will help us determine if you have medical conditions or take certain medications that either increase or decrease your risk of a fracture. Please arrive about 15 minutes beforehand to give you time to complete this.