Osteoporosis - DEXA Scanning

Today, osteoporosis research is making important new advances. A key factor in this success is the availability of improved equipment to measure bone density. That is why Magruder Hospital uses the top of the line GE Healthcare Lunar DEXA Scan.

This DEXA scan is a highly technical bone-density tool that measures the density of the spine, hip, and other bones which are the most frequent sites of fracture In general, the more dense the bone, the stronger it is, and the less likely to break. The bones most commonly scanned are the vertebrae, hip, and wrist.

A DEXA scan may be advised if you are at increased risk of osteoporosis. If the scan shows that you have osteoporosis, then you may be given advice and treatment to help strengthen your bones.

A DEXA scan may be advised if you have:

  • A fracture following a minor fall or injury
  • Loss of height due to fracture of a vertebra
  • Taken steroid tablets for three months or more
  • An early menopause (aged less than 45)
  • A history of periods stopping for more than one year before the menopause
  • Other disorders associated with osteoporosis such as rheumatoid arthritis or coeliac disease
  • A family history of hip fracture on your mother's side
  • A body mass index of less than 19 (that is, if you are very underweight)

The DEXA Scan

A DEXA scan uses low energy x-rays. A machine sends x-rays from two different sources through the bone being tested. A detector measures the amount of x-ray that comes through the bone. This information is sent to a computer that calculates a score of the average density of the bone.

During a DEXA scan, you lie still on your back while the detector/scanner comes over the areas to be tested. It just takes seconds to identify risk at a much earlier stage. It can also evaluate response to treatment so patients and doctors know whether therapy is effective or needs modification.

An x-ray machine fires x-rays toward the detector. This scan is painless and takes 20 minutes.

Preparation for your exam:

No special preparation is needed.

In addition, Magruder has an Achilles Insight Heal Scanner that is a small ultrasound unit used as a screening tool at health fairs and community events. The results are not comprehensive.