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Bone Densitometry, also known as bone density scan and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. 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.
Bone densitometry is most often used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause but may also be found in men. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, as well as structural changes, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. Bone density scans are also effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bone loss and can assess an individual’s risk for developing fractures.
Bone densitometry is most often performed on the spine and hips.
Preparing for your Exam-Before, During, After
Before your Bone Densitometry Exam
- On the day of your exam there is no special preparation necessary. Patients are advised not to take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours prior to your exam.
- Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment to fill out any necessary paperwork.
- Patients should wear comfortable clothing and avoid garments that may contain metal zippers, buttons, and clasps. Other metal objects such as jewelry, eyeglasses may need to be removed as to not interfere with the x-ray process.
- If you have recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material, please inform the physician. The Bone Densitometry scan may need to be re-scheduled for 10-14 days later.
- Women should always inform their physician or technologist if they are pregnant or may be pregnant.
During Your Bone Densitometry Exam
- The bone densitometry procedure usually takes 10 to 30 minutes to complete and is a painless procedure.
- During the exam, the patient will be asked to lie on a padded table. An x-ray generator is located below the patient and an imaging device above.
After Your Bone Densitometry Exam
- A radiologist will review the results and discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will explain the results to you.
The amount of radiation used is extremely small—less than one-tenth the dose of a standard chest x-ray, and less than a day's exposure to natural radiation. Extreme care is taken during any x-ray procedure to ensure the lowest possible dose of radiation without compromising image quality.