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Bone Density Scan

(Also known as Bone densitometry or DEXA )

This is a low dose X-ray investigation of accurately measuring the mineral density (thickness) in the bone and the density of it, by assessing this the doctor can diagnose if you are suffering from Osteoporosis (this is where the slow process of calcium loss leads to the bones becoming thinner and more likely to break) or Osteopenia which is a milder thinning of the bone mass, and not as severe as osteoporosis. The amount of radiation received is the same as an average day’s background radiation.

It is a test which is recommended for ladies over 65 years of age or women who had an early menopause. Bone thinning does affect both men and women but is primarily a condition which affects women.

The scan is usually taken in the X-ray department using low doses of radiation it is usually performed on the spine and the hips. You may have been referred for a bone density scan for a variety of reasons, you may:

  • Have a family history of osteoporosis
  • Have had fractures from minor injuries
  • Suffer from a thyroid condition
  • Are taking medicines which are known to cause bone mass loss
  • Suffer from type 1 diabetes
  • Suffer from liver disease
  • Suffer from kidney disease
  • If you are post- menopausal and are:
    • Tall over 5ft 7”
    • Not taking oestrogen
    • Or thin under 81/2 stone



You may eat and drink normally prior to the procedure but should have stopped taking your calcium supplements 24 hours before the scan.

The Procedure:

Will be done in the X-ray department and will be done as an outpatient procedure. If you believe you may be pregnant you should inform the staff prior to the commencement of the investigation. When you arrive in the department you will be shown to a cubical and asked to remove your clothing and put a gown on. You may be able to wear your own clothes as long as you do not have any zips in the trousers or metal fasteners.

  1. You will be shown through to the room and made comfortable on the x-ray table

  2. Your legs will be raised and made comfortable on a padded cushion – this is to flatten out the spine

  3. Your hips may be assessed in which case your foot may be positioned in a foot rest and turned inwards

  4. You will be asked intermittently to hold your breath whilst the x-rays are taken to prevent blurring.

The procedure is not uncomfortable in itself although if you are already stiff you may feel a bit more uncomfortable than usual. The procedure only takes about 15- 30 minutes in all.

The results of the scan will be sent to your GP or to the consultant who referred you. They will be discussed with you when you return for your follow up appointment, the scoring of the results will give your doctor an indication of the bone density and an estimation of the likelihood of you suffering from fractures or if further tests need to be performed.

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