How to prepare for a DEXA scan?

April 7, 2010

A dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is usually used to diagnose osteoporosis. It is also known as bone densitometry or bone density scanning. It is an advanced form of x-ray that measures bone loss. It is mostly performed on the lower spine and hips but can be on the full body for children and some adults. Women who are over 60 or 65 and are at risk for osteoporosis should get this scan done. Men who have clinical conditions and a history of bone fracture/loss are also recommended to carry out this scan.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a DEXA scan:-

  1. Stop all calcium supplements at least 48 hours before your DEXA scan. Calcium supplements could interfere with the scan results. You can eat normally on the day of your exam and the days leading up to it.
  2. Stop any medication that you are on for osteoporosis or osteopenia on the day you have the scan.
  3. Remove all your jewelry - wherever it is on your body. A DEXA scan is like an x-ray and you are not permitted to wear any metal during the scan. Wallets and keys should be removed too. This is because metal objects cause interference in the readings.
  4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Avoid clothes that have belts, zippers, metal buttons and so on. You may be asked to remove your clothes and wear a gown during the scan.
    5. Inform your doctor if you have recently been injected with a contrast material for radioisotope scan or a CT scan or if you have recently had a barium examination. You might have to wait for 10-14 days to undergo a DEXA scan if this is the case. The contrast material must be out of your system completely else it will interfere with the scan results.
  5. Inform the physician who is performing the scan of any recent fractures or injuries, especially back and hip ones. This will enable him to read the scan accurately and not mistake them for new injuries due to brittle bones.
  6. You must inform your doctor if you are pregnant or suspect that you are. DEXA scans are not recommended for pregnant women as it is harmful for the fetus to be exposed to radiation. If the scan cannot be avoided, the doctor will take precautions to minimize the risk to the fetus.

The test is quick and painless and you will be free to leave once it is over.

Submitted by M T on April 7, 2010 at 03:28

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