What to Expect


What to expect when you have a DXA scan

Hopefully a risk factor questionnaire is given to you to fill in, so that if you have osteopenia and/or Osteoporosis, the questionnaire will assist your doctor in figuring out why you developed Osteopenia and/or Osteoporosis. It is essential that all cause/s are found and addressed in order for the person to improve their bones. Certain blood tests are also recommended to assist in finding the causes of your bone loss.

A DXA scan is similar to having an X-ray and it is completely painless. You lie on your back for approximately 10-15 minutes while a bar moves above you, back and forth. It is not claustrophobic.

A DXA scan measures a person’s bone mineral density, which basically means the strength of the person’s bone.

A DXA scan measures the bone density in your lower spine: Lumber vertebrae 1, 2, 3 and 4 which are the bones in your lower back. It also measures two areas of the hip: the femoral neck and the greater Trochanter. The IOS recommends that both hips be scanned.

If a person has developed a hump on their back or has lost height, an LVA (Lateral Vertebral Assessment) is recommended when having the DXA scan. An LVA needs to be requested on the referral letter. If this is not available, a lateral thoracic X-ray should be done to rule out fractues.

In the majority of facilities, the DXA results are sent back to your GP or the referring consultant, who should explain your results to you.

Re-scanning is usually every two years (preferably on the same machine) and is recommended to monitor a patient’s response to treatment.

When you are re-scanned, your new results should be compared to your old results to ensure that you have improved. Your results should not decline, if this happens, this should be investigated. Most scan centres require a referral letter for a DXA scan.