Bone Density Scan (DEXA)

DEXA stands for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. It is used to measure bone mineral density. It is one of the most accurate ways to diagnosis osteopenia or osteoporosis. DEXA uses a very small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body (usually the lower spine and hips) to measure bone loss. It is commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis and to assess an individual’s risk for developing fractures. DEXA is simple, quick and noninvasive. It’s also the most accurate method for diagnosing osteoporosis.This test is so accurate that your follow up DEXA scan can be used to monitor your progress to determine if your treatment plan is working.

What to Expect During a DEXA Scan

The exam requires little to no special preparation. It’s important to 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 for a Nuclear Medicine scan. You should not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.

You should wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal.

For a conventional DEXA exam, the bone density of one of your hips and lower spine are measured, while lying on a padded table. An X-ray generator is located below you and an imaging device, or detector, is positioned above. The detector is slowly passed over the area, generating images on a computer monitor. You will be asked to hold very still and may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the X-ray is taken. 

A board certified radiologist will analyze your DEXA images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician.

Who Should Have a DEXA Scan?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation’s guidelines say that women over 65, younger postmenopausal women who have any of the osteoporosis risk factors, as well as those with specific fractures, should have a DEXA scan. Men are also at risk for osteoporosis as they age; especially if they have some of the risk factors of osteopenia or osteoporosis.

DEXA Scan Hours

Bone density (DEXA) scans are performed Monday through Friday, by appointment only. You must have a physician's order.

More Information

To make an appointment for any of your breast imaging exams or a DEXA scan, please contact the Scheduling Line at 540-316-5800.
For questions regarding your examination, please call the Medical Imaging Department at 540-316-4500.