Bone Density Scan

bone density

Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is today’s established standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD).

An x-ray (radiograph) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Imaging with x-rays involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. X-rays are the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging.

DXA is most often performed on the lower spine and hips. In children and some adults, the whole body is sometimes scanned. Peripheral devices that use x-ray or ultrasound are sometimes used to screen for low bone mass, mostly at the forearm. In some communities, a CT scan with special software can also be used to diagnose or monitor low bone mass (QCT). This is accurate but less commonly used than DXA scanning.

Bone densitometry, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, DEXA or DXA, uses a very small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body (usually the lower (or lumbar) spine and hips) to measure bone loss. It is commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis, to assess an individual’s risk for developing osteoporotic fractures. DXA is simple, quick and noninvasive. It’s also the most commonly used and the most standard method for diagnosing osteoporosis.

This exam requires little to no special preparation. Tell your doctor and the technologist if there is a possibility you are pregnant or if you recently had a barium exam or received an injection of contrast material for a CT or radioisotope scan. Leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown. You should not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.

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