DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) bone density scanning is the most commonly used diagnostic technique for osteoporosis.
As osteoporosis causes no symptoms until a bone is broken, it has traditionally been difficult to identify who may have fragile bones before a fracture occurs. Due to advances in technology and the development of bone densitometry (the measurement of bone density), we can now detect osteoporosis prior to any bones breaking. This gives individuals who are at a higher risk of fractures the opportunity to take treatments and adopt lifestyle changes in order to reduce their risk of breaking their bones.
What will happen when I have a scan?
It is a simple, painless procedure that uses very low doses of radiation, which is similar to natural background radiation – less than one tenth of the dosage of a chest x-ray.
A DEXA scan involves lying on a firm couch whilst a scanning arm passes over the body taking an image of the spine and hips.
A DEXA scan will take approximately ten minutes. It is a quick, simple and comfortable procedure.
It does not involve being enclosed in a mechanical tunnel or having any injections.
Usually you will not have to remove any of your clothing, but if there is a significant amount of metal near the hips or along the spinal area, this clothing may have to be removed so it does not affect the scan.
What is the difference between a DEXA scan and an ultrasound?
Ultrasound is an alternative method of investigating the health of other organs in your body, such as imaging the womb, liver, kidney, gallbladder, spleen, ovaries, bladder, breasts and eyes.
It works by generating sound waves of a high frequency, which are beamed into the body. The echoes of the reflected sound, or the rate and path of transmission of the sound, are used to build up an electronic image or measurement of the structure being examined. Ultrasound does not use radiation.