Burnett Medical Center's Diagnostic Imaging Department offers fully digital, state-of-the-art imaging services to help diagnose and treat your conditions. A Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry scan, more commonly referred to as DEXA or bone density scan, is among these services offered at BMC.

What is DEXA?

DEXA is an imaging test utilized at BMC to measure a patient's bone density, where two different x-ray levels pass through the bone to generate images of the inside of the body. A BMC healthcare professional may recommend you have a DEXA scan in order to properly diagnose osteoporosis or assess your risk for developing osteoporotic fractures. DEXA scans are most commonly done on the spine and hips.

When should I have a DEXA Scan?

 A bone density scan may be recommended for you if you:

  • are a post-menopausal woman not taking estrogen.
  • have a history of hip fracture or smoking.
  • are a tall or thin post-menopausal woman (over 5 feet 7 inches or less than 125 pounds).
  • are a man with clinical conditions associated with bone loss, such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney or liver disease.
  • use medications that are known to cause bone loss, including corticosteroids such as Prednisone, anti-seizure medications, or high-dose thyroid replacements.
  • have type 1 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or a family history of osteoporosis.
  • have high bone turnover, which shows up in the form of excessive collagen in urine samples.
  • have a thyroid condition, such as hyperthyroidism or hyperparathyroidism.
  • have experienced a fracture after only mild trauma.
  • have had x-ray evidence of a vertebral fracture or other signs of osteoporosis.

How to Prepare for a DEXA Scan 

On the day of your scheduled DEXA scan at BMC, you are able to eat normally, only avoiding calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your scan. You will be asked to wear loose, comfortable clothing to your appointment, avoiding jewelry, eyeglasses, dental appliances or any clothing with zippers, metal buttons, or belts. Your phone, keys, wallet or purse should be removed before your scan. You may be asked to remove some clothing to change into a gown for the duration of the scan.

You should inform your doctor if you have recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT scan or radioisotope scan. You may have to wait up to 14 days before you can schedule your DEXA scan appointment.

How to Prepare for a CT Scan

You will be asked to provide information to the technologist prior to your exam. This information will include:

  • Current medications
  • Possibility of pregnancy(due to use of radiation)
  • Medication allergies
  • Some exams may require a renal function test
  • You could be asked to remove metal objects such as jewelry, belts, metal snaps or buttons, eyeglasses, or hearing aids if there’s potential for it to be in the area being imaged.

What to Expect During a DEXA Scan

DEXA scans are done in quiet, private rooms during your scheduled appointment at BMC. They only last a few minutes. For a scan of the hip or spine, you will lie down on the padded table with the x-ray generator below you and the imaging device arm above you. For imaging of the hip, your foot will be placed in a brace that will rotate your hip inward. During both, the device's arm will slowly pass over the area, producing images for your technologist to be able to assess. You may be asked to sit very still and hold your breath at certain points to avoid blurry image results. The entire process typically takes about 30 minutes.

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