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The bones support the rest of the body, enabling all kinds of movement and activity. Over time and with conditions like osteoporosis, the bones can lose some of their density, which increases their likelihood of breaking.
If you have risk factors or signs of bone loss, your doctor might recommend a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan.


What is a Bone Density Scan (DEXA,DXA)

Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss.
DXA is today's established standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD).
By accurately measuring bone density, a DEXA scan can tell you whether you have osteoporosis, whether you are likely to develop osteoporosis and whether you might benefit from medication to slow bone loss.
When the results from your scan come in, your doctor will likely give you two numbers.
The first is a T-score. This compares your results to the bone density of a healthy 30-year-old:

  • A T-score greater than -1 is considered normal
  • A T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates osteopenia
  • A T-score lower than -2.5 indicates osteoporosis

The second number provided with your results is a Z-score, which compares your bone density to the average for someone of your age, weight, sex and ethnicity. A Z-score over 2.0 is considered normal, while a Z-score below -1.5 could indicate something besides age is contributing to bone loss.

Depending on the results of your DEXA scan, you and your doctor may decide you need to take further steps to protect your bone health.


Tips for Protecting Bone Health

Although some people have a higher risk of osteoporosis than others, anyone can protect themselves with these bone health tips:

  • Maintain an exercise routine
  • Eat foods with plenty of calcium
  • Ask a doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption

If you’re worried about the results of your DEXA scan, ask your doctor what you can do to stay healthy.

Why are Bone Density Scans done

  • Evaluation of persons at risk for osteoporosis
  • Follow up for patients with predetermined osteoporosis or known bone demineralization
  • Evaluation of response to treatment of osteoporosis

DEXA Scan Preparation

  • No prior radionuclide studies for 2 weeks
  • No barium contrast studies for 2 weeks
  • No metal in clothing (i.e. zippers)

Clinical Indications

There are a number of conditions related to poor bone health. People who should consider assessment with DXA include:

  • Women 65 and older and men over age 70
  • Women under age 65 and men ages 50 - 70 who have risk factors such as:
    • A fracture over age 50
    • Rheumatoid arthritis or chronic kidney disease
    • Eating disorders
    • Early menopause (from natural causes or surgery)
    • History of hormone treatment for prostate or breast cancer
    • Significant loss in height
    • Smoking
    • Family history of osteoporosis
    • Taking corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone) every day for 3 months or more
    • Three or more alcoholic drinks per day on most days.