DXA Scan

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DXA scannerDXA stands for “Dual–energy X–ray Absorptiometry.” It’s the most widely used method to measure bone density (how solid your bones are) and to see if your bones are thinning. Two x-ray beams, each with different levels of energy, are directed at your bones. The amount of energy absorbed by the bones indicates bone density.

Does a DXA scan hurt?

The test doesn’t hurt and it is safe. There are no injections or medications to take. The machine is open, which means you will not be enclosed in the machine. Each scan takes about 1-6 minutes.

How should I prepare for the DXA scan?

  • Appointments are usually scheduled at least 14 days after having any procedure that involves contrast materials (for example, a CT Scan with contrast dye).
  • You can eat normally, but you shouldn’t take calcium supplements, vitamins, or TUMS® on the morning of the scan.
  • Don’t wear clothes (or undergarments) that have metal buttons, hooks, snaps, or zippers because metal interferes with this test. Remove jewelry and piercings when possible. If your clothing has metal on it, you will be given a hospital gown to change into.

What happens during the DXA scan?

  1. The technician will ask you questions about your medical history and explain the procedure.
  2. You will have your height and weight measured. If you have begun menstruation (or age 12 and older), you may need to pee into a cup. This is a routine pregnancy test and it is done in most hospitals on all patients. However, if you are not asked to provide a urine sample, make sure to tell the technician performing the test if there’s a chance you’re pregnant.
  3. You will be positioned on the table according to the type of scan you will be having.
  4. A machine shaped like an upside down “L” will slowly move back and forth over your stomach area to measure the bone density of your spine and hips, but will not touch your body. You will be asked to stay still and not talk during the entire scan, but you can breathe normally. You should ask questions if you don’t understand what to expect.

Should I be concerned about the amount of radiation I will receive?

No. The amount of radiation is much lower than that of an x–ray. In fact, it’s even less than the amount of radiation that you would be exposed to if you took an international flight.

When do I get the results of my DXA scan?

The DXA scan must be carefully reviewed by the technologist and a health care provider who specializes in bone health. The health care provider ordering the DXA scan will usually review the results with you within 2 weeks either over the phone or at your next appointment. If needed, a follow-up scan will be done no sooner than 1 year from the prior scan.