DXA scans are a fast and accurate way of checking your bone density and measuring the calcium content of your bones. Generally, the denser your bones are, the stronger they are, and therefore less likely to break. DXA scans help find out whether you have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it. DXA stands for "dual energy X-Ray absorptiometry" and DXA scans are also known as DEXA scans and bone density tests.
Bone density assessment should ideally take place in those at risk of osteoporosis to identify early bone loss, take action to improve this and prevent fractures. Your GP may have assessed you as being at risk from osteoporosis or you may feel that you are at risk and wish to refer yourself for a scan.
For self paying patients the price varies according to location, but generally costs about £100. To find contact details of your nearest scanning centre please visit our Locate a Centre page.
No preparation is required prior to your examination.
Please inform us if any of the following apply to you, as these characteristics may mean you are unable to have the DXA scan.
If you require assistance with language interpretation or would wish to be escorted by a friend, relative or carer, please advise us so that the clinic staff are ready for you.
If you are, or suspect that you may be pregnant, please tell the radiographer before the scan is carried out.
On arrival one of our staff will explain the procedure to you and answer any further questions you may have.
Depending on which part of your body is being examined you may be able to remain in your own clothes (provided they do not have metal fastenings) for the duration of the scan. It is common to scan your lower back bones (vertebrae) and hips to check for osteoporosis but we may also scan your forearm because it has a different level of calcium content from other parts of your body. You will be asked to lie on your back comfortably on a couch and to keep still while the scan is being taken. This will take 15-20 minutes.
A low dose of X-Rays will be passed across the body in two separate beams of different intensity. The allows us to detect the density of bone and soft tissue separately. The information from the scanner is sent to a computer which calculates a score for the density of your bone.
It is a painless procedure and you can go straight home afterwards.
The DXA report will be received by the doctor who referred you within four working days of your DXA scan. You should arrange to see your doctor to receive your results unless he/she has made different arrangements with you.
If you have self referred you will receive a copy of the report and with your permission a copy will be sent to your GP to ensure your medical records are kept up to date.
Are There any Side Effects?
A DXA scan involves a low dose of X-Rays (less than a normal X-Ray) being passed across the body. X-Rays are a form of radiation. Everybody receives a small amount of radiation from the environment every day. The radiation received from your scan is very small, and would be less to the amount you would be exposed to on a transatlantic flight. However, if you receive many doses of radiation, the effect can build up and be harmful. Simply put, the less you receive, the better.