Bone Density (DEXA Scan)

Measurement of bone mass by densitometry has become central to the diagnosis of osteoporosis and instituting preventative treatment. Currently it is estimated that less than 5% of patients at risk for osteoporotic fractures of the spine and hip are diagnosed and treated. With increased availability of accurate bone density testing, diagnosis of osteoporosis early will allow for earlier treatment, resulting in reduced fracture risk. There are different testing techniques to predict future fracture risk. However, only central measurements of the hip and spine can confirm the diagnosis of osteoporosis, determine the severity of the osteoporosis, decide when therapy should be initiated, and monitor response to therapy.

Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptometry (DXA) units send a small column of x-ray to a detector. The units are state-of-the-art, providing the highest levels of accuracy in bone mineral determination. The test results are stored in the computer to allow direct comparison to future studies.

Indications to Refer Patients for Bone Densitometry Testing Include:

  • Diagnose osteoporosis-even in its earliest stages
  • Estimate risk of future fractures
  • Monitor efficacy of drug therapy on bone density
  • Evaluate children for suspected low bone mass


What to Expect: A comprehensive questionnaire will be given prior to the exam to identify your risk factors. We try to identify all risk factors, since the presence of multiple risk factors may require that you be treated earlier or tested more frequently. We also try to identify those risk factors that you can change, especially important ones such as frequent falls, balance problems, and poor eyesight that are commonly overlooked.

DXA scanning is a simple, painless test, performed while lying down on the padded table of the unit. Measurements are made in the lumbar spine, hip and occasionally the forearm. In pediatric patients, measurements are only made in the lumbar spine. There is no injection. The length of the exam is 10-15 minutes.


  • No calcium supplements, day of exam.
  • Please bring a list of all medications to your appointment.
  • Wear clothing without metallic fasteners or decorations, if you do not wish to change into a hospital gown.

You should not have a barium study, radioisotope injection, or oral or IV contrast material from a CT scan within 7 days prior to the DXA scan. You cannot have this exam if you are pregnant, but it is safe if you are nursing.