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Dexa Scans / Bone Densitometry

DEXA scans are the most commonly used test to measure bone density. DEXA stands for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry and is one of the most accurate ways to diagnosis osteopenia and osteoporosis. DEXA scans can also assess an individual's risk for developing fractures. The risk of fracture is affected by age, body weight, history of prior fracture, family history of osteoporotic fractures and life style issues such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These factors are taken into consideration when deciding if a patient needs therapy.

Hours and Locations

DEXA scans are provided at our Imaging Center in the Utica Business Park from 8am to 3pm, and also at our Faxton Campus. To schedule an appointment, please call 315-624-4600. For questions about DEXA Scans, please call 315-624-5510.

More Information About Our DEXA Scan Services

DEXA Scans are used to measure bone mineral density because they:

  • Are more accurate than regular X-rays. A person would need to lose 20 to 30 percent of their bone density before it would show up on an X-ray
  • Require less radiation exposure than CT scans or Radiographic Absorptiometry
  • Are less costly that other tests

Patients who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant should not have the test. Also, if the patient had another X-ray with contrast media (including a barium enema, upper GI and some CAT scans) or had a nuclear scan (including bone scan and thyroid study) in the last seven days, they should not have this test.

The DEXA scan is a non-invasive test and requires little preparation. If the patient is taking calcium supplements, they will need to stop taking them for 48 hours before the test. Also, if the patient is any medications for osteopenia or osteoporosis, they cannot take them the day of the test. Patients may eat and drink normally on the day of the test and should wear loose clothing that has no metal zippers, metal buttons, etc. (or they will need to disrobe). If any kind of metal jewelry is worn, it will need to be removed before the test. Patients must tell the technician if they have had any hip or back injury, as well as if they are left handed because technicians will measure the hip of the patient’s non-dominant hand.

The DEXA machine sends a thin, invisible beam of low-dose X-rays with two distinct energy peaks through the bones being examined. One peak is absorbed mainly by soft tissue and the other by bone. The soft tissue amount can be subtracted from the total and what remains is a patient's bone mineral density. DEXA machines feature special software that compute and display the bone density measurements on a computer monitor.

During the test, the patient must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the X-ray picture is taken. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the X-ray machine. The DEXA bone density test is usually completed within 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the equipment used and the parts of the body being examined.

Bone density tests are a quick and painless procedure. Routine evaluations every two years may be needed to see a significant change in bone mineral density. Few patients, such as patients on high dose steroid medication, may need a follow-up at six months.