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Frequently Asked Questions:

Bone Density Scan (DEXA)
Osteoporosis Screening

Bone Density Scan (DEXA) Osteoporosis Screening

What is a bone density scan?  

A bone density scan measures the amount of bone mineral content in certain areas of the body. Our advanced fan beam technology measures the spine and both hips. Your bone mineral density (BMD) is then compared with reference standards to determine if you are at risk for fractures. Low bone density is usually caused by osteoporosis resulting in reduced bone strength or "brittle bones."

Bone density scanning works by measuring the amount of x-rays that are absorbed by the bones in your body. The two x-ray energies allow the machine to differentiate between bone and soft tissue density, giving a very accurate estimation of bone density. Our radiologist will produce a report for your physician based on the bone density measurement and your medical history. Bone density scanning has proven to be one of the most accurate methods of measuring bone density. It also uses the least amount of radiation and is less expensive than other methods.

Why is a bone density scan performed?  

Osteoporosis is a silent, progressive disease that can have crippling effects on both women and men. There are 44 million men (20%) and women (80%) in the United States with either osteoporosis or low bone mass. Reduced bone strength can lead to fractures resulting in the loss of mobility and independence. Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures, of which 300,000 are hip fractures. The DEXA scan will provide valuable information on your bone mineral density and will even predict future fracture risk. Your physician will use the bone density scan information to decide if treatment for low bone mineral content or osteoporosis is necessary.

What can I expect during a bone density scan?  

Your exam may be the easiest medical test you will experience. Certified technologists with specialty training in bone densitometry will conduct the exam. You will be positioned on the exam table on your back while a scanner passes over one area of your skeleton, usually the lower spine and hip. You will not feel anything during the exam. Lie still. Breathe normally. Rest comfortably.

How long will my bone density scan take?  

The actual scan lasts about 15 minutes.

Is bone density scanning safe?  

Norwalk Radiology utilizes Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) technology, which offers an extremely low x-ray dose.

The amount of radiation for a bone density scan is only a fraction of that received from a standard chest x-ray. It is comparable with the amount received on a transcontinental flight. The DEXA method produces less radiation than other methods such as QCT. Although DEXA emits a very low amount of radiation, always inform the technologist if there is a chance of pregnancy.

Do I need a referral (prescription) to have my bone density exam?  

Yes, your doctor must provide a referral (prescription) for you to receive a bone density scan. Medicare will pay for a bone density exam every 2 years unless your physician deems it medically necessary to do more often; prior authorization is required. Please verify your insurance coverage prior to your bone density exam.

When will I know the results of my exam?  

DEXA bone density report osteoporisis screeningA detailed written report of the procedure will be sent to the referring physician within 24 hours. Your physician will contact you to discuss the results. Urgent results are telephoned immediately to your doctor who will discuss the results with you.

What should I do to prepare for a bone density (DEXA) scan exam?  

Do not take calcium supplements the day of the exam. Wear any kind of clothing you like, but please avoid metal buttons or buckles.

Where can I find additional information on the Internet about osteoporosis and about bone density (DEXA) scan exams?  

Norwalk Radiology & Mammography Center
148 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851 • TEL: 203.838.4886
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