DEXA Scans: A Step-By-Step Guide

DEXA scans (or DXA scans) are 360-degree x-rays that can show issues with bone density, among a number of different metrics. Bone density testing allows radiologists to check the health of bones and instruct those with risk factors for bone loss or disease.

Below, you’ll learn more about what a DEXA scan is, how it’s performed, and how the results are used to prescribe treatment for patients.

DEXA Scans – Bone Density Scanning

The acronym DEXA stands for ‘Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry.’ The DEXA scan utilizes two x-ray beams to measure the bone mineral density of an area. Each X-Ray possesses a different energy level, which doctors use to calculate a difference in absorption. They subtract the absorption from the soft tissue of your body, and the remainder gives an accurate depiction of bone density.

The DEXA scan takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. It provides a micro amount of radiation, making it completely safe to receive up to 4 times in a calendar year. Your radiologist will likely request that you refrain from taking calcium supplements up to 24 hours prior in an effort to obtain accurate results. No other preparations are usually necessary.

What Does a DEXA Scan Check for and Why?

When using a DEXA scan, radiologists are checking for bone mineral density. He or she then compares your bone density to that of an average 30-year-old human being. This is the age that   bones are usually at their strongest. 

Your doctor will give you something called a ‘T-Score’ on your report that describes that comparison. A score of -1 or greater describes average, healthy bone density. Scores lower cite you as having low bone density. Low bone density scores can signify that you are more at risk to break a bone. The World Health Organization cites that a score with a standard deviation score of -2.5 or greater is where doctors should diagnose osteoporosis. 

How Does Osteoporosis Affect Your Health?

bone health graph showing why you need dexa scans a step by step guide

Osteoporosis means ‘porous bone.’ When you have poor bone mineral density, the bones are less sound and far more likely to fracture under regular stress. The disease occurs as a result of the body’s resorption of old bone material overcomes its ability form new bone material. The bones utilize calcium and phosphate for the creation process. If you’re calcium-deficient, your bones can become brittle and weak.

Bone density naturally tends to weaken with age, especially among those who lead sedentary lifestyles. Statistically, women overall have the greatest risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Caucasian and Asian individuals are also cited as developing the disease at a higher rate than other demographics. 

Other inherited and lifestyle factors also pose a risk such as genetics, eating disorders, excess alcohol consumption, and smoking. 

How Can a DEXA Scan Help Me with Bone Disease?

If you fall under any of the possible risk factors, are the age of 65 or older, have suffered fractures, or experience pain in the hip and spine, your doctor may call for a DEXA scan. If your doctor is able to diagnose osteopenia or osteoporosis, they can prescribe appropriate treatments to help. 

There is no one-time cure for the disease as there are daily health practices that you’ll need to begin incorporating. Diets should be rich with calcium that comes from dairy, salmon, and other sources. Your doctor will also likely prescribe a high-dosage calcium supplement to take daily. They’ll also work with you to schedule a regular workout plan to promote bone growth. Studies find that those who participate in weight-bearing exercises see a natural increase in bone mineral density.

DEXA Scans by Hudson River Radiology

If your doctor calls for a DEXA scan, come to Hudson River Radiology for your imaging needs. We only utilize state-of-the-art imaging technology and offer caring customer service you won’t find anywhere else. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to request an appointment for your next DEXA scan.

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