What is a DEXA Scan? | MedStar Health

What is a DEXA?

Image of a person having a DEXA scan

A DEXA scan, otherwise referred to as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, is a specialized X-ray procedure that utilizes ionizing radiation to assess bone density. It is a quick and noninvasive scan that is most often used in the diagnosis of osteoporosis.

For patients on some medications, a DEXA scan may be ordered prior to the start of treatment in order to obtain a baseline for bone density that can then be monitored with additional scans throughout the course of treatment. This allows your doctor to determine if osteoporosis is developing as a result of treatment, so that measures can be taken to prevent any further bone loss.

Your doctor will be looking for two specific numbers from your scan: Your T-Score and your Z-Score. The T-Score calculates the difference between your bone density and that of the average healthy person, and the Z-Score compares your bone density to others of your same age, race, and gender.

Preparing for a DEXA

When you come into Medstar Health for your scan, you will be asked to remove any metal or electronic items and you may be asked to put on a gown. You will then lie down on a table so that X-ray images can be taken. The entire test typically lasts no more than 15 to 20 minutes and is painless. You will be permitted to go home as soon as the test is completed.

Because DEXA scans utilize X-ray technology, it is important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or have reason to believe you may be pregnant.

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