DEXA Bone Densitometry

As we age, our bones can thin and lead to osteoporosis. To determine your risk of fractures, your doctor may recommend a DEXA bone densitometry scan. If you do need a DEXA scan, you can be sure that the certified team at Banner Health will work to get your results to you in a timely manner.

What Is a DEXA Bone Densitometry Scan?

A DEXA (or DXA) bone densitometry scan is a Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry test. Sometimes referred to as a bone density scan, it is used to measure your bone mineral density to see how strong your bones are. 

What Is Bone Mineral Density?

Bone mineral density, or bone density, is a measurement of the amount of bone mineral present in your bones. It is used to determine bone strength and its ability to bear weight. 

When Is a DEXA Bone Densitometry Scan Used?

A DEXA bone density scan is a common screening test for women over 65 as it can help predict your risk of fractures or osteoporosis, similar to the way testing your blood pressure can predict your risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

This test cannot predict the certainty of developing a fracture. It can only predict risk. It’s also important to note that a bone densitometry scan, or test, shouldn’t be confused with a bone scan. A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test.

Bone densitometry scans should be considered for patients who are under the age of 65 only if they have the following risk factors:

  • History of fracture as an adult
  • History of fragility fracture in a close relative
  • Low body weight (under 127 pounds)
  • Use of corticosteroid therapy for more than three months
  • Estrogen deficiency at an early age (45 years or younger)

Medicare will cover bone density testing every two years for patients who are 65 years or older and who have one of the following conditions:

  • Estrogen-deficient and at risk for osteoporosis
  • Abnormalities in the vertebrae
  • Long-term use of glucocorticoid steroid therapy
  • Diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism
  • Use of an approved osteoporosis drug therapy

How to Prepare for a DEXA Bone Density Scan

There is little to no preparation needed for this type of exam. 

  • Wear comfortable clothes – you may be asked to change into a gown
  • Do not wear any jewelry
  • Do not take any calcium supplements 24 hours before your scan.

What to Expect from a DEXA Bone Density Scan

A DEXA bone density scan is a painless procedure that can be performed at a Banner Health hospital, clinic or at many of our convenient Banner Imaging locations. 

You’ll lie on a table and be asked to remain very still while the x-rays are being taken. The scan is usually completed within 10-30 minutes, depending on which parts of the body are being examined. 

If you have any questions about a DEXA bone density scan talk to your doctor or contact a Banner Imaging location near you.

Find an Imaging Location Near You

Whatever your need, your doctor can refer you to one of our conveniently located free-standing imaging centers or one of our hospitals.