DEXA scans are used to measure the amount of calcium in bones and to diagnose osteoporosis (or assess the risk of osteoporosis developing). The examination involves changing into a hospital gown and lying on a couch whilst the body is x-rayed. The examination takes between 10 and 20 minutes. The X-ray dose is low, being about onetenth the dose of a chest X-ray.
Screening for osteoporosis is important as it causes no symptoms until a bone is broken (NHS Choices 2010). People considered to be at high risk of developing osteoporosis are:
- Women who had an early menopause (under 45) and didn't have Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
- Men or women who have a disease that leads to low bone density or causes loss of bone, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Men and women under 65 who have taken steroid tablets for three months or more.
- Men or women with a mother who fractured her hip before she was 75.
- Women who have had their ovaries removed and no HRT to compensate for the menopause that this causes.
- Men or women with low Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.
Patients may be referred for a DEXA scan from their consultant or GP. We do not currently accept self referrals but if you are concerned that you may be at risk of osteoporosis you should speak to your doctor.