Also known as: DXA, DEXA, dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, bone densitometry.

What is a DEXA scan?

A DEXA scan (dual X-ray absorptiometry) or a bone density scan/bone densitometry test, is a test that measures bone density and bone loss also called osteopenia. Total body fat percentage is also measured.

The test is important to help predict the risk of fractures and growth disturbances. Children with genetic and acquired chronic diseases, such as renal failure, immobile children, feeding problems, and those taking medications which interfere with calcium absorption.

What happens during the procedure?

Your child will lie on a padded X-ray table and ask to be completely still, while a machine is used to scan the bones (it usually takes 15-30 minutes). The scan usually examines the spine and the whole body. If your child is younger than 5 years, he/she might require to be fed, or be given a mild sedative before the scan.

Is any special preparation needed?

Your child should wear comfortable clothing, and all jewelry (or metal objects) should be removed. Calcium supplements should be avoided for 24 hours before the test, and if your child has had a test using barium or oral contrast, the scan will be postponed for 10-14 days.

What are the risk factors?

The DEXA scan is a low dose X-ray, and radiation is similar to a chest X-ray. You can discuss this with your pediatric radiologist if you require any further information.

Reviewed by: Dr. Rachel M Pevsner Crum, DO

This page was last updated on: February 26, 2021 04:31 PM

Children's Radiology

The Radiology facilities at Nicklaus Children’s are specifically designed for the comfort and diagnosis of infants, children and adolescents.

Learn More