DEXAWhat is a DEXA scan?

DEXA is mainly used to investigate bone mineral density reduction caused by osteoporosis.

By using two different X-ray sources rather than one, a DEXA greatly improves the accuracy in measuring the density of bone tissue.

You may be advised to have a bone density scan if:

  • You have taken a course of steroid tablets lasting for three months or more
  • You currently have one of the following medical problems:Crohn's disease, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis,  rheumatoid arthritis, gastrectomy, anorexia nervosa, thyrotoxicosis, hyperparathyroidism, renal failure, ankylosing spondylitis or lactose intolerance
  • You have broken a bone after a slight bump or trivial fall (in patients aged 55 and over)
  • You have experienced early or medical menopause (in patients aged 45 and under)
  • You are experiencing height loss (kyphosis) of 5 centimetres or more
  • You have a diagnosed family history of hip fracture
  • You have a diagnosed family history of osteoporosis
  • You have radiological osteopenia
  • You have taken a course of one of the following breast cancer drugs: Arimidex, Aromasin and Femara

What happens during a DEXA scan?

Our radiographer will take the time before your procedure to explain everything to you. During the scan, the radiographer will ask you to lie on a comfortable scanner bed while the scanner passes above you.  DEXA is a very straightforward scan and causes no discomfort or pain.

How long does a DEXA scan take?

The scan usually takes 10 to 15 minutes as it can take a few minutes to scan each bone. Appointments usually last approximately 40 minutes.

Can I bring someone with me?

Yes, we are happy for a friend or family member to accompany you.

Are there any side effects?

DEXA scans are safe. The DEXA scan only exposes your body to a miniscule quantity of X-ray radiation. 

However, X-rays are not safe for, or given to, pregnant women unless they have a serious medical condition which requires scanning. If you think you may be pregnant, it is important to tell us before your appointment day.

What happens after a DEXA scan?

After your scan, you can go home.


This information is also available on a downloadable patient information sheet.

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