Bone Densitometry – DEXA Scan

Bone Densometry

What is a Screening DEXA Scan?

A bone density screening determines if you have osteoporosis – a disease that causes bones to become more fragile. Bone density screening involves measuring bone density before symptoms occur. All women over 65 should be screened for osteoporosis. Men over 65 who have low testosterone levels should also be screened for osteoporosis. To accurately detect osteoporosis, doctors commonly use DEXA bone densitometry to assess bone mineral density. DEXA stands for “Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry”. DEXA bone densitometry is a safe, painless, and non-invasive procedure for measuring bone loss. Bone mineral density assessment is used to:

  • Detect the presence of osteoporosis in men and women with particular risk factors
  • Screen for osteoporosis, particularly in women making decisions about hormone replacement therapy at menopause
  • Predict future fracture risk
  • Monitor patients with low normal levels or those undergoing treatment for osteoporosis

Ultrasonography (ultrasound) and computed tomography (CT) can also determine bone density. Ultrasonography is used primarily for screening. For example, portable ultrasound devices may be used at health fairs to scan the wrist, forearm or heel.

Computed tomography (CT) is used primarily for diagnosis. CT is particularly useful when changes in bone due to arthritis or old fractures make the results of DEXA scanning hard to interpret. Also, CT can help doctors identify or rule out other disorders (such as cancer) that can result in a broken bone.

What is a Diagnostic DEXA Scan?

Diagnosis involves checking for osteoporosis when doctors have a reason to think that it is present. For example, doctors should check for osteoporosis whenever an older person breaks a bone. The most common areas used for measurement are the lower spine and hips. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing bones to become thinner and more fragile.

Who is at greater risk for osteoporosis fractures?

  • Females
  • Caucasians
  • Advanced age
  • A small thin frame
  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Early menopause
  • A low calcium diet
  • Inadequate physical activity
  • Eating disorders
  • Certain medications (such as steroids or anticonvulsants)
  • Excessive alcohol intake or tobacco use

How should I prepare for this procedure?

  • Refrain from taking calcium supplements or osteoporosis medications for at least 24 hours
  • Wear comfortable clothing and avoid garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal
  • Let your technologist know if you’ve recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT or radioisotope scan
  • Bring a list of all your medications, including the dose, frequency, and duration of use
  • Let your technologist know if there is a possibility you are pregnant

What should I expect during this exam?

Depending on the equipment used and the parts of the body being examined, the test takes between 10 and 30 minutes. Our fully trained and ISCD-certified staff maintain careful quality control to ensure system integrity. Standardized procedures are followed to assure reliable, reproducible results.

  • You’ll lie on a padded table with an X-ray generator below and a detector (an imaging device) above. You may be asked to remain still and to hold an awkward position for a short period of time while the machine takes measurements. It is important that you remain as still as possible during the procedure to ensure a clear and useful image.
  • When evaluating bone loss in the spine and hip where most osteoporosis-related fractures happen:
    • Spine – During an examination of the spine, your legs will be supported on a padded box to flatten your pelvis and lower (lumbar) spine.
    • Hip – The technologist will place your foot in a brace that rotates the hip inward.
  • The detector is scanned over the area, generating images on a computer monitor.

How do I obtain results?

After your bone density exam is completed, we will be happy to answer any questions you have regarding follow-up care with your physician, and getting the results of your scan. A written report of your DEXA bone density exam will be sent to your referring doctor.

To schedule a Bone Densitometry at Radiology Associates of Hartford, please visit our locations page for more information or call (860)714-2724.

For more information on this topic, please visit www.Radiologyinfo.org.