DEXA Bone Densitometry
Picturing the health and density of your bones
DEXA (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry) exams are one way to help your physician tell if your bones have lost density, and to what extent. When bones lose density, they lose strength, become porous, brittle, and vulnerable to breaking more easily. If this process reaches a certain measurable point, it’s called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures in any bone, but the most important to your overall quantity and quality of life are your spine and your hips.
These are the factors that increase your risk for osteoporosis:
- an inactive lifestyle, lacking in exercise,
- abusing alcohol,
- inadequate calcium intake,
- taking certain medicines (steroids and thyroid medicines),
- experienced early menopause or are post-menopausal,
- Caucasian (white-skinned) or Asian,
- or are of small build.
Both men and women can have osteoporosis and you do not have to have all of these risks to develop osteoporosis.
For more information on Osteoporosis, see the National Osteoporosis Foundation web site. This site has much good information written in a way that you can understand, including tips for how to prevent osteoporosis, treat it, and even how to dress fashionably if your posture is affected by osteoporosis.
How DEXA works
DEXA works much like an X-ray, sending a tiny amount of radiation through your spine and hip. This amount of radiation is about 1/20th the amount in a chest X-ray. Denser areas of the bone will look different than less dense areas so that the computer can analyze the status of your bones.
What to expect at your appointment
Wear comfortable clothing without metal buckles, zippers or buttons. Should you need to change clothes, we have gowns available.
The technologist will check your height and weight, and ask several questions about your family history of osteoporosis and your current and previous health. We’ll ask about results of previous osteoporosis screening, whether and when you’ve fractured a bone or bones as an adult, what medications you’ve been taking, and whether or not you are menopausal.
The exam itself is completely painless, noninvasive and safe, and takes ten to twenty minutes. For a DEXA scan of your back and hips, you will be assisted in lying flat on your back on the exam table. The DEXA machine will take pictures of the lumbar spine and hips, and after the scan is completed the computer will calculate your results. The technologist will compose a report with the information from your DEXA scan, the radiologist will review it, and a printout will be sent to the ordering physician.
You cannot have DEXA if:
- It has been less than 5 days since you had a procedure involving barium.
- You are undergoing radioactive iodine therapy for your thyroid.
- You weigh over 350 pounds.
When your doctor orders your exam, you will be told how to get your results. Your results should be in your hands within a week. If it has been over a week and you have not heard, do not assume everything is normal. SIRA technologists are prevented from telling you the results of your test. Call your physician’s office for your results