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DEXA scan

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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DEXA is short for 'dual energy X-ray absorptiometry' which is the medical term for a type of scan that uses mild X-rays to measure how dense bone is. The density of bone helps determine how strong the bone is, so the lower the density, the weaker the bone is considered to be. A DEXA scan can be used to diagnose conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is when your bone density is significantly lower than the normal range for your age and gender, and the bones are therefore at a higher risk of breaking easily. Osteopenia is a milder form of this with just a slightly lower than normal bone density.

Osteoporosis is when bone density is significantly lower than the normal range for your age and gender, and the bones are therefore at a higher risk of breaking easily. Osteopenia is a milder form of this with just a slightly lower than normal bone density.

Who needs a DEXA scan?

You may be referred for a DEXA scan if you have risk factors for developing osteoporosis or if you have had a bone that broke easily. For the scan, you may not need to take any clothes off depending on the area being scanned, you lie on your back on an X-ray table and the DEXA scanning machine passes over your body from above you. (You will be asked to remove any metal you may be wearing, or any clothes with metal fasteners, as this can obscure the scanning.) A DEXA scan is painless, takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete, and you can go home straight away afterwards.

What about the radiation?

A DEXA scan does expose you to a small amount of radiation but this is very small in comparison to other types of scans such as a CT scan. The amount of radiation is so small that it doesn’t put you at any significantly higher of developing problems in the future such as radiation-associated cancers. However, DEXA scans are not recommended in people who are pregnant.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter