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Bone Densitometry

1. What is Bone Densitometry?

A bone density test, also called densitometry or DEXA scan, is done to determine if a patient has, or is at risk of developing, osteoporosis. The test uses special X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone.  The higher your mineral content, the denser your bones are, and the denser your bones are the less likely they are to break.

2. Why is it done?

A bone density test is done to determine if you have, or are at risk for developing, osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," causes bones to become weak and brittle, putting you at a greater risk for fractures. Generally osteoporosis is caused by a lack of calcium and other minerals in the bones. Although women are more often affected, men too can develop osteoporosis, and risk factors increase with age.  It is recommended that women age 65 or older be screened for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can be treated and early detection provides the best possible outcome.

3. What are the risks?

The bone density test has very few risks as it involves a low dosage of radiation and no injections. However, you should not have a bone density test within seven days of having had any test involving nuclear medicine, barium or contrast.

4. How should I prepare?
No preparation is needed prior to having a bone density test.

5. What should I expect?
You will be asked to lay flat facing upwards on the X-ray table in a dimly lighted room while the machine scans your lower back and hips. You may be asked to adjust your clothing if it interferes with the X-ray. If for some reason the lower back or hips cannot be scanned, your forearm will be scanned instead. The exam generally takes around 15 minutes, and you can return to your normal activities following your exam.

6. Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
One of our radiologists will analyze your test and then report any findings to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and recommend any further actions.


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 Washington Regional
 3215 N. North Hills Blvd.
 Fayetteville, AR 72703
 (479) 463-1000


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VHA Clinical Excellence Award 2014
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