What is a DEXA Scan and what are the steps involved in it?
A DEXA scan is a type of X-ray that measures the bone mineral density and bone loss. In case you have a lower bone density than normal (for your age), there is a risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
The technique of DEXA was introduced for commercial purposes in 1987. DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorption.
DEXA transmits two X-ray beams at dissimilar peak energy frequencies to the target bones. The soft tissue absorbs one peak while the other peak is absorbed by bone.
Bone mineral density is the remainder obtained when the amount of soft tissue absorption is deducted from the total amount of absorption. DEXA scan is fast, non-invasive, and more accurate as compared to a regular X-ray.
An extremely low level of radiation is involved in it. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises DEXA as the best technique for evaluating bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
DEXA is also known by the name- DXA or bone densitometry. Doctors at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad, are highly skilled and well-experienced.
They are committed to providing you with essential information about various diseases. This article will help you in knowing more about the DEXA scan, its cost, and its procedure.
Why is the DEXA scan used by doctors?
A DEXA scan is used to examine and estimate the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Doctors also use it to check if your osteoporosis treatment is working. Generally, the scan targets the lower spine and hips.
Before the development of the DEXA scan, standard X-ray diagnostics could only notice more than 40% of bone loss. DEXA may measure with 2-4% accuracy.
The first sign of bone density loss may be when an older adult breaks a bone. DEXA scan is also used to measure the composition of the body, lean muscle, and fat tissue.
It is more accurate than the traditional body mass index (BMI) in examining excess fat. To evaluate weight loss or muscle strengthening, a total body picture may be used.
When will the doctor recommend DEXA?
The doctor may recommend a DEXA scan in case:
- You are a woman aged above 65 or a man above 70, which is the recommendation of the various medical groups.
- You have symptoms of osteoporosis
- You break a bone after 50 years of age
- You are a man aged 50-59 or a postmenopausal woman under 65 with risk factors
- Your X-rays show the possibility of osteoporosis, osteopenia, or fractures
- You are taking a steroid drug, such as prednisone
- You have primary hyperparathyroidism
- The doctor wants to check if your osteoporosis drug is working
What are the risk factors for Osteoporosis?
The following factors may increase your risk of osteoporosis:
- Use of tobacco & alcohol
- Use of corticosteroids & some other drugs
- Low body mass index
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Previous fractures
- Height loss of more than an inch
What are the preparations required for a DEXA scan?
- DEXA scan generally does not require any special preparations except that the doctor may recommend you not to take any calcium supplements for 24 hours before the test.
- You should wear comfortable clothes. The doctor or lab technician may ask you to take off any clothes with metal fasteners, zippers, or hooks depending on the body area that has to be scanned.
- The doctor may schedule a DEXA scan after a few days in case you have had a CT scan requiring the use of contrast material or a barium exam. You must inform the doctor in advance of this.
- You must inform your doctor if you are pregnant. The doctor may then schedule the DEXA scan after you have delivered the baby or may take special precautions while performing the scan.
What are the diagnostic procedures for a DEXA scan?
- The apparatus of DEXA consists of a flat-padded table on which you lie, a movable arm above that holds the X-ray detector and a device below the table that produces X-rays.
- The doctor or technician will ask you to lie on the table and help you A wedge may be placed under the knees to help flatten your spine for a better image or better positioning of the hips. Your arms may also be positioned for scanning.
- You will be asked to hold yourself very still while the imaging arm slowly moves across the body. The technician or the doctor may remain in the room when the device is being operated on as the X-ray radiation level is low. It takes just a few minutes for the whole process to be completed.
What do the results indicate?
The radiologist will read your DEXA results and then accordingly you may be advised to follow further instructions. According to the standards established by WHO, your bone loss will be measured against that of a healthy young adult by the scoring system of the scan. This is known as your T-Score, which is the standard deviation between the average and the measured bone loss.
- A score equal to or above -1 is considered normal
- A score between -1.1 and -2.4 is taken as osteopenia with an increased risk of fracture
- A score equal to or below -2.5 amounts to osteoporosis implying a high risk of fracture
The results may also illustrate a Z-score, which compares your bone loss to that of persons in your age group. It is important to understand that the T-score is not a prediction that you will have a fracture but is a measure of relative risk.
The doctor will analyze the test results and then take further needed actions. S/he will discuss if treatment is required and what are the options for treatment. The doctor may also go for a second DEXA scan within two years to determine any changes.
What’s the outlook?
In case your results show osteopenia or osteoporosis, the doctor will discuss and advise you on possible remedies you may follow to slow down the rate of bone loss and stay healthy.
The doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes. You may be advised to begin weight-bearing exercises, balance exercises, and strengthening exercises or you may also be asked to join a weight-loss program.
In case you have low levels of vitamin D or calcium, you may be asked to start taking supplements. The doctor may even advise you to take any one of the drugs that are used to strengthen bones and lessen bone loss.
You may consult your doctor about the various side effects of drug treatment. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), about 50% of women and 25% of men over the age of 50 may break a bone because of osteoporosis.
A change in lifestyle or starting a medication may help you in slowing down the rate of bone loss and is a good investment in your health. It is also helpful to be informed and updated about new studies and possible new treatments.
You may consult our specialists or doctors at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad who are always ready to guide and support you throughout the treatment.
What is the cost of a DEXA scan?
The cost of a DEXA scan differs based on the place where you live, the type of hospital you are in, or the type of facility conducting the test.
If the doctor has recommended a DEXA scan as a medical necessity, insurance companies may help you with covering all or part of the cost. It is better to consult the doctor or healthcare provider about the estimated cost.
Need to consult specialists or doctors for a DEXA scan in Delhi NCR?
The Department of Radiology at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad offers world-class services and support.
We have a dedicated team of doctors who are always ready to provide you with the best care and support throughout the treatment.
With advanced machines and technologically updated methods, you get all the facilities you
may need during the treatment. Consult our doctors and book an appointment now.