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What is DEXA?

DEXA scans are used to measure bone density, which can help doctors diagnose osteoporosis. DEXA scans can tell your doctor whether you’re at risk for bone loss, fractures, or other problems, and they can also help your doctor guide your treatment decisions.


DEXA measures the mineral content of the bones in certain skeleton areas. Sometimes health care providers call this test a bone density test or a DXA.

A DEXA scan is a type of medical imaging test that checks the density of the bone in the body. It measures your bone density using low levels of x-rays. DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Medical experts consider DEXA scans the most useful, easy, and inexpensive test for helping to diagnose osteoporosis. The test is quick and painless.

How the Test is Performed

DEXA scans measure the mineral content in certain bones, such as the hip, spine and/or wrist. It works this way:

 ✅  You will be asked to lie on a special DEXA x-ray table. The technologist will help position you correctly and use positioning devices such as foam blocks to help hold the desired position.
 ✅  As the arm of the DEXA machine passes over the body, It uses two different x-ray beams. The beams use very little radiation to keep the test safer and help to distinguish bone from other tissues.

 ✅  The scanner translates the bone density measurement data into pictures and graphs. Bone is most easily seen in white, while the fat and muscle tissue looks like shadows on the technologist’s computer in the background.
 ✅  These results are then reviewed and interpreted by a radiologist or physician trained in DEXA interpretation.
 ✅  Your healthcare provider is sent a copy of the written report to discuss with you and consider what treatment is most appropriate.

Why the Test is Performed

Healthcare providers may also order a DEXA scan to:

 ✅ Track bone health changes over time.
 ✅ Monitor your response to treatment, such as osteoporosis medication.
 ✅  Evaluate body composition, such as how much fat and muscle mass your body has (and where).