What you should know
- Bone densitometry is a scan (test) that measures your bone density (thickness). Bone densitometry is also called a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. DXA scans are normally done on your hip, spine, or forearm (lower arm). A DXA scan can also be done of your entire body. DXA scans use a radiation beam to take pictures of your bones. The pictures show minerals, such as calcium, inside your bones that help keep them strong. The DXA scan shows if your bones have lost needed minerals, causing them to become weak. A DXA scan may be done to check for osteoporosis, bone fractures (breaks), or your risk for bone fractures. Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when you lose bone density and bone tissue.
- Healthy women age 65 or older, and healthy men age 70 or older, should have a DXA scan. Younger women and men who are at high risk for bone loss should also have a DXA scan. The risk for bone loss increases if you need to take certain medicines for long periods of time. These medicines include steroids and certain male hormone (body chemical) therapies. Women who are entering, or at menopause, and have low levels of estrogen are at risk for bone loss. Menopause occurs when a woman no longer gets her monthly period. Medical conditions, such as diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar) and rheumatoid arthritis (joint swelling), also increase your risk. Having a DXA scan can help you and your caregiver learn if you have bone loss. If you have bone loss, you and your caregiver can decide the best treatment for you.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- If the pictures from your DXA scan are not clear, you may need another scan. The scan may not show areas of bone loss, and you may not get needed treatment. The scan may show abnormal bone density when you have had no bone loss. If this occurs, you may get treatment you do not need.
- If you do not have the DXA scan, you may have bone loss that is not found. If you have unknown bone loss, your risk for falls and bone fractures increases. If you have an unknown fracture, your pain and other symptoms may get worse. You may not get needed treatment if you have bone loss, a bone fracture, or osteoporosis. Talk with your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about having a DXA scan.
Before your procedure:
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- For women, tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
The day of your procedure:
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
- If you take calcium supplements, you may be told not to take them the day of your DXA scan.
- You will need to remove any metal that is near the body area being scanned. This includes jewelry, clothing with zippers, coins, body piercings, or an underwire bra.
What will happen:
You will lie on the DXA scan table on either your back or your side. If your hip is being scanned, you will need to turn your foot and hip slightly inward. Pillows or cushions may be used to support your back and help you stay in one position. Do not move during the scan so the pictures of your bones are clear. Once you are positioned, the scanner passes over the area and sends pictures to a screen. The DXA scan may last between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the area being scanned.
After your procedure:
When your DXA scan is complete, you may be able to go home. Ask your caregiver when you will get the results of your DXA scan.
Contact a caregiver if
- You are late or cannot make it to your DXA scan.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You fall and think you may have a bone fracture.
- Your condition, for which you are having the DXA scan, or symptoms, such as pain, suddenly get worse.
© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of the Blausen Databases or Truven Health Analytics.
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Bone Densitometry (Precare)
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