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A DEXA scan measures the density of your bones to show how strong they are. It’s a test that doctors use to help diagnose osteoporosis. For more information, see our section: What is a DEXA scan? above.
There isn’t anything you need to do to prepare for a DEXA scan. You’ll have the scan and go home the same day. You may be able to stay fully dressed during the scan if you’re not wearing anything metal. But you may need to wear a hospital gown. For more information, see our section: Preparing for a DEXA scan above.
Your doctor will usually recommend you have a DEXA scan as part of an assessment for osteoporosis at age 65 and older (for women) and 75 and over (for men). They may advise you have it sooner if you’re at risk of osteoporosis or if you’ve previously had fragility or stress fractures. For more information, see our section: Assessing if you need a DEXA scan above.
The scan is safe, quick and painless and usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes. You’ll lie on your back on a padded table during the scan. An X-ray machine underneath you will send beams of radiation which pass through your bones to a detector that’s positioned above your body. For more information, see our section What happens during a DEXA scan above.
You may be able to keep your bra on but if it’s underwired you may need to take it off. Metal items can show up on the scan so you may need to remove them. Ask your hospital for advice. For more information, see our section: Preparing for a DEXA scan above.
There isn’t anything you should avoid before a DEXA scan. Your hospital will check if you’ve had any other scans recently that may affect the results of your DEXA scan. They’ll also check if you’re pregnant because there’s a risk the radiation could harm your baby. For more information, see our section: Preparing for a DEXA scan above.
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- Osteoporosis – prevention of fragility fractures. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised July 2021
- Radiological guidance for the recognition and reporting of osteoporotic vertebral fragility fractures (VFFs). Royal College of Radiologists. www.rcr.ac.uk, published May 2021
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