What Does a Dexa Scan Show?

Written by heather topham wood Google
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If you are a patient with symptoms of osteoporosis, your doctor has likely mentioned the term "Dexa scan." The word "Dexa" stands for Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, and the scan is a test to measure a patient's bone density. Testing for osteoporosis usually includes a Dexa scan.


A physician will determine if you should have a Dexa scan based on several factors. If you have symptoms of osteoporosis, a Dexa scan will likely be ordered. Symptoms include the development of painful fractures. The fractures can occur in different areas of the body, including the spine and back. Patients at a high risk of developing osteoporosis will also likely get a Dexa scan. This includes a family history of the condition, low body weight, advanced age and use of certain medications.


The Dexa scan measures the bone-mineral density in the patient's body. Multiple X-rays will be taken of your body to measure the amount of calcium and bone minerals in the make-up of your bones. The test will focus on areas of the body that are at risk for fractures, including the spine and hips. You will lie down on a soft surface while a mechanical device swings over parts of your body to provide bone-density images.


You will be given both a T and Z score when you have a Dexa scan. The T score indicates whether your bone density falls within a normal range for a person in her 30s, when bone density peaks, while the Z score is a comparison against other individuals of your age, sex and weight.


If your T score is above -1, your Dexa scan is considered normal. If you score below this number, the scan indicates you have either osteoporosis or osteopenia, the precursor to the condition. The Z score is given in the same format and can help your physician indicate whether you are suffering from a secondary form of osteoporosis.


If you are pregnant, you should not have a Dexa scan performed. It is also not recommended for individuals who have had an X-ray with contrast within the last seven days. The previous X-ray may interfere with the results of the scan.

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