DEXA SCAN DEFINITIONThe dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (also known as the DEXA scan or the DXA scan) is a bone density test that determined whether or not you have osteoporosis. This is a test that uses dual x-rays with different energy levels to measure the grams of calcium and other bone minerals packed into a given bone segment.
DEXA SCAN PURPOSEThe DEXA scan can help screen you for osteoporosis without you needing to break a bone. Doctors use the DEXA scan to monitor osteoporosis treatment, confirm osteoporosis diagnosis, determine your risk for bone fractures, and identify decreases in bone density.
DEXA SCAN RISKSRisks and limitations involving DEXA scans include radiation exposure, differences in testing methods (spinal and hip bone measurement is more accurate but costly, while measuring the heel, finger, or forearm is cheaper but less accurate), and the fact that it might not be covered by insurance.
DEXA SCAN PREPARATION REQUIREDDEXA scans are painless, fast, and easy. You don't need to prepare for it at all, save perhaps double-checking with your insurance company in regards to whether or not your policy covers procedures like this. Tell your doctor if you had a barium exam, or if you were recently injected with CT scan contrast material.
DEXA SCAN PROCEDUREDEXA scans are typically applied to bones that are likeliest to break because of osteoporosis. They include forearm bones, the narrow neck of your femur, which is next to your hip joint, and lower spine bones or lumbar vertebrae.
DEXA SCAN COMPLICATIONSThere are little to no complications related to having a DEXA scan. The radiation exposure you can get from such a scan is less than that of a round-trip California to New York airline flight, so it shouldn't even be a concern.
DEXA SCAN SIDE EFFECTSThere are little to no immediate side effects with having a DEXA scan. It doesn't involve any invasive procedures, so it's a relatively harmless and side-effect-free operation.
DEXA SCAN RESULTSYour DEXA results are reported through the Z-score and the T-score. Your Z-score is the number of standard deviations below or above what's normally expected of your racial origin, weight, sex, and age. A Z-score of -2 or lower suggests abnormal bone loss. Your T-score is the bone density that's expected of a healthy young adult of your gender. -1 and above means your bone density is normal. Between -1 and -2.5 means you may have osteopenia. -2.5 and below indicates you may have osteoporosis.