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Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry or DXA (previously DEXA) is the technology used to measure and monitor changes in bone density. The gradual loss of bone density with age weakens bones and often leads to fractures. This condition is called osteoporosis, literally porous bone. Many factors such as genetic predisposition, illness, drugs, and dietary habits contribute to the development of this disease. A DXA scan can determine if patients have osteoporosis or if they are at risk from developing the disease.
How to prepare for a DXA scan:
There is no preparation required before the scan. You can take medication and can eat meals as normal. Loose, comfortable clothing is recommended with no metal studs or belts, however, bras are acceptable.
A lifestyle questionnaire will be given to you before the scan commences which includes relevant questions regarding your medical history, medication etc. The answers you provide will assist with optimal reporting of your results.
How does a DXA scan work?
You will be required to lie down on an examining table where two low-dose x-rays are used to measure the bone density of two sites in your skeleton - the lumbar spine and hip. The bone densitometer measures the bone mineral density (BMD), usually in a matter of seconds for each site.
Two scores are generated from the DXA machine:
T score: - This result compares the amount of bone you have with a reference range of healthy young adults with an average bone density. The difference between this and your score is expressed in standard deviations which provide an estimate of your risk of developing a fracture.
Z score: - This result compares the amount of bone you have with other people of your age, sex and race.
These results and also the lifestyle questionnaire will assist the reporting physician to formulate an accurate report. The images and results will be sent to your referring doctor who will discuss these with you and advise if you require any treatment.
What will I experience during and after the x-ray procedure?
A bone density scan is a painless, quick and safe procedure; allow approximately 30 minutes.