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DEXA Bone Density Scan

A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis — a disorder characterized by bones that are more fragile and more likely to break. The test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.
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Our DEXA bone density scan is a type of low-dose x-ray test that measures calcium and other minerals in your bones. The measurement helps show the strength and thickness (known as bone density or mass) of your bones. The test will tell you if you have osteoporosis (or weak bones), and it can help you understand your risk of breaking a bone in the future.

Why is this procedure performed?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease. It means your bones are weak and more likely to break. It is a silent disease. There are no signs or symptoms of osteoporosis, and you might not know you have it until you break a bone. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. That’s why it’s so important to get a bone density test to measure your bone strength. A bone mineral density test is the best way to check your bone health.

To keep bones strong, eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercise and do not smoke. If needed, medicines can also help.

Women are four times more likely to develop this Osteoporosis. Most women age 65 or older should have a bone density scan. Women in this age group are at high risk for losing bone density, which can lead to fractures.

Risk factors include:

  • Getting older
  • Small, thin body frame, very low body weight
  • Have had one or more fractures after the age of 50
  • Have lost a half inch or more in height within one year
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Ethnic background
  • Having osteopenia, which is low bone mass
  • History of smoking or heavy drinking

What happens during a bone density scan?

There are different ways to measure bone density. The most common and accurate way uses a procedure called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, also known as a DEXA scan.

You will lie on your back on a padded table. You will probably be able to leave your clothes on.


You may need to lie with your legs straight, or you may be asked to rest your legs on a padded platform.


A scanning machine will pass over your lower spine and hip. At the same time, another scanning machine called a photon generator will pass beneath you. The images from the two machines will be combined and sent to a computer. A health care provider will view the images on the computer screen.


While the machines are scanning, you will need to stay very still. You may be asked to hold your breath.

Additional Resources

Learn more from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists