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Bone Densitometry/Dexa Scan

Bone densitometry, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) or bone density scanning, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. This is the most accurate method available for the diagnosis of osteoporosis and is also considered an accurate estimator of fracture risk.

DEXA is most often used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause. 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.

DEXA is also effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bone loss.

The DEXA test can also assess an individual’s risk for developing fractures. The risk of fracture is affected by age, body weight, history of prior fracture, family history of osteoporotic fractures and life style issues such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These factors are taken into consideration when deciding if a patient needs therapy.

Download  Bone Density Tests  PDF     

Download  Top 10 Myths About Osteoporosis  PDF

How is the procedure performed?

This quick, painless and noninvasive exam is done on an outpatient basis by a technician in the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health.

During the exam, the non-pregnant patient weighing 350 lbs. or less lies on a padded table. An x-ray generator is located below the patient and an imaging device, or detector, is positioned above.

To assess the bone density in the spine, the patient’s legs are supported on a padded box to flatten the pelvis and lower spine. To assess the bone density in the hip, the patient’s foot is placed in a brace that rotates the hip inward. In both cases, the detector is slowly passed over the area, generating images on a computer monitor.

The DEXA machine sends a thin, invisible beam of low-dose x-rays with two distinct energy peaks through the bones being examined. One peak is absorbed mainly by soft tissue and the other by bone. The soft tissue amount can be subtracted from the total and what remains is a patient’s bone mineral density. No radiation remains in a patient’s body after the test.

DEXA machines feature special software that compute and display the bone density measurements on a computer monitor.

Note: Patients who also need a radiological test or nuclear medicine study that includes barium or contrast, should have bone density study first, or wait a week after contrast/barium study.

Who interprets the results and how will I get them?

A radiologist in the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health will analyze the images and send a report to your physician, who will discuss the results with you.

Your test results will be in the form of two scores:

  • T score — This number shows the amount of bone you have compared with a young adult of the same gender with peak bone mass. A score above -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 is classified as osteopenia (low bone mass). A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis. The T score is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture.
  • Z score — This number reflects the amount of bone you have compared with other people in your age group and of the same size and gender. If this score is unusually high or low, it may indicate a need for further medical tests.

Now you can book just one appointment for both your Dexa Scan and Mammogram. Schedule an appointment online with SCHedule Now or call (815) 300-7076.  A physician’s order is required.