Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is today's established standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD).
Your doctor may recommend a DXA scan to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause, but may also be found in men. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. DXA is also effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bone loss. The DXA scan is also used to assess the risk for developing fractures. The risks usually consist of age, body weight, history of prior fracture, family history of osteoporotic fractures, and life style issues such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Bone density tests are a quick and painless procedure and are usually done on an outpatient basis. In the DXA examination for the hip or spine, the patient lies on a padded table. An x-ray generator is located below the patient and an imaging device, or detector, is positioned above. The detector is slowly passed over the area, generating images on a computer monitor. The patient must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the x-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The peripheral tests are simpler. The finger, hand, forearm or foot is placed in a small device that obtains a bone density reading within a few minutes. The DXA bone density test can usually be completed within 10 to 30 minutes.
Low dose radiation produces internal images.
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