DEXA Scan – Preparation, Procedure, Guidelines, Results Interpretation, Side Effects

DEXA Scan – Preparation, Procedure, Guidelines, Results Interpretation, Side Effects

The human body is prone to ailments. However, timely check-ups and precautions can save a lot of human effort, resources, and discomfort. DEXA scan is one such precautionary move which can reduce a lot of discomfort for the human body. DEXA Scan is the short form for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Scan.

Such a scan is primarily done in order to scan the bone density of an individual. The scan is a painless and quick procedure where the individual requires lying on his/her back over an X-ray table such that a specific area of the body can be scanned for the purpose.

The scan is essentially done in order to measure the Bone Mineral Density of the individual. DEXA Scan is also known as Bone Densitometry and it is an established enhanced form of X-ray technology which helps in measuring the bone density of individuals. However, this enhanced scan might require some precautions and preparations.

What Does A DEXA Scan Show?

The procedure of DEXA Scan is an FDA approved procedure practised by medical practitioners in order to take a closer look at an individual’s health. Such a scan provides appropriate results about the individual’s internal health and further helps the individual surpassing their health and weight loss goals and targets.

The particular procedure of DEXA Scan is essentially a non-invasive and simple quick procedure to fulfil the following purposes

  • To measure bone loss
  • To diagnose osteoporosis
  • Assessing risk of developing fractures
  • Helping in detecting whether cancer has metastasized or spreading to the bones.
  • Identifying any other problem, warning signals of potential diseases, and any disease or any medical condition developing within the human body. Thus providing the individual with a chance to rectify and regain health before the disease actually affects the body. Some of the diseases which can be detected through this scan include osteoporosis, liver diseases, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, high cholesterol, metabolic disturbances and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Detecting any weak points within the body such as thinning of the muscle mass or where probable fractures can happen
  • Detecting the amount of body fat deposited within the body at various points of the body including deep belly fat, visceral fat.

DEXA Scan Preparation

DEXA Scan is a simple procedure. Some of the preparations needed for such a scan include

  • Being stress free at least regarding the procedure of the Scan and the output thereof
  • Avoiding calcium supplements for 24 hours prior to the scan
  • Informing the doctor and/or the radiologist whether there is a possibility of the individual being pregnant, so that further adjustments can be made in order to minimize the exposure of radiation and reducing the risk for the baby. It is further suggested to wait till the baby is born if the test can be postponed for such time.
  • Informing the doctor in case the individual has recently undergone a Barium examination
  • Informing the doctor in case the individual has taken an injection for any contrast material for a CT or a radioisotope scan.
  • Removing any piece of metal from the body including jewelry and dental appliances or hearing aids.
  • Having a normal meal on the day of the scan or as prescribed by the doctor or the radiologist.

Dexa Scan Guidelines

Some of the important guidelines regarding DEXA Scan include

  • DEXA Scan merely provides and an indication of a relative risk of fracture and does not exactly predict who would get a fracture.
  • DEXA has limited use in the case of patients suffering from spinal deformity or people who have undergone spinal surgery in the near past. Such conditions might interfere with the accuracy of the results and in such cases a CT scan is advisable.

DEXA is merely a body assessing scan which surely doesn’t have predictive powers. Such a scan can only provide a way to lead a healthy life but the effort needs to be made by the individual alone.

DEXA Scan Procedure

DEXA Scan or Bone densitometry is done by using a small dose of ionizing radiation which helps in producing pictures of the internal parts of the body. Especially the lower spine and the hips area. As the name suggests, DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Scan) uses two X-ray beams in order to scan the body of the individual to get a thorough overview of the internal health parameters that too in a non-invasive manner.

The exposure to radiation during the process is low since the entire process itself is brief and can at the maximum take up to 10-20 minutes in order to completely assess the composition of the body, especially your bone health. The two X-ray beams help in complete assessment and measurement of bone density, amount of body fat in the body and its distribution across the body, and muscle composition. Such a scan is usually done on an outpatient basis.

DEXA Scan Results and Interpretation

DEXA Scan is a holistic scan which can prevent various diseases as mentioned above. Prior to the scan, the individual would require filling up a questionnaire which would help the medical practitioner assess the medical condition of the individual. According to a World Health Organization online survey, DEXA results along with some basic questions can appropriately predict the risk of hip fracture for postmenopausal women.

Some of The Scan Results of DEXA Scan Include

  • Percentage of visceral fat
  • Identifying brittle bones
  • Weak points within the body
  • Warning signs of possible health issues and diseases among others

The interpretation of such results can vary from determining the number of exercises required by an individual’s body, type of diet the individual should consume, to the best ways in order to build muscle mass.

Overall, DEXA Scan help the individual plan and execute a healthy lifestyle which would include creating workout plans, making dietary changes, preventing bone thinning by proper diet and exercises, and reducing unnecessary fat deposition from the body in order to minimize the risk of certain chronic diseases.

DEXA Scan Side Effects

Such a complete and holistic body scan has some inherent benefits such as

  • Being a simple, convenient, non-invasive and quick procedure
  • Use of very less amount of radiation i.e., approximately one tenth of the dose of standard chest x-ray or even less than an entire day’s exposure to natural radiation and such radiation also doesn’t leave any trace in the individuals body.
  • Non requirement of use of anesthesia during the procedure
  • Being the most accurate method of diagnosing osteoporosis or estimation of a risk of fracture

Though X-Ray’s usually do not have any side effects, but still there are certain risks associated with such a scan. These risks include

  • Excessive exposure to radiation always increases the risk of cancer, though the benefits of this scan outweigh such a risk
  • Uninformed or unknown pregnancies can have a harmful effect because of such radiations, and thus women need to be careful

Usually, the scan doesn’t involve much side effects and complications, though the effective dose of radiation might vary depending on the procedure.

DEXA Scan has the power of improving an individual’s life, but the individual merely needs to know and understand the required DEXA scan preparation prior to undergoing such a scan.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad