DEXA Scan

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 an imaging test which relies on the fact that different tissues absorbs X-rays differently. It is the commonest way to measure bone density. Children with genetic and acquired chronic diseases, immobile children, those taking medications which interfere with calcium absorption or those inadequately fed, may not achieve the normal expected size, mass and strength of bone which makes their bones more likely to fracture.


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 30-45 minutes). The scan usually examines the spine or hip, though sometimes the whole body is examined. 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 contrast dye, the scan will be postponed for 10-14 days.


What are the risk factors?

The DEXA scan is a low dose X-ray, using much less radiation than a regular X-ray. With radiation there is a very slight risk of cancer, however the benefit of the study usually outways the risk. You can discuss this with your pediatric radiologist if you require any further information. A risk exists to an unborn fetus if the scan is performed on a pregnant women.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 9/6/2018 6:38:53 PM

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