What is a Bone Density Scan (DXA)?

As we age, our bone structure may weaken. This is especially true in postmenopausal women. A Bone Density Scan, also called Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), is a specialized X-ray test that uses a very small dose of ionizing radiation to provide information in order to measure bone loss. Its most common uses are to diagnose osteoporosis, to measure bone loss treatment results or to determine future risks for fractures.

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Why would my physician recommend a Bone Density Scan (DXA)?

Your physician may recommend a Bone Density Scan (DXA) if you have symptoms of osteoporosis, are being treated for osteoporosis or to assess your risk for developing bone fractures. It is typically recommended for women who are post-menopausal or have conditions associated with bone loss. It may also be recommended for men or children who have certain risk factors, but this is less common.

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How does a Bone Density Scan (DXA) work?

The DXA machine sends low-dose X-rays from two different sources through the bones being examined. We then measure the amount of X-rays that get through. The denser the bone, the less X-rays get through to the detector. Two sources are used for increased accuracy. Once the X-rays are measured, a computer calculates a score based on the average density (based on two scores) of the bone. These scores are calculated and reported based on how you compare to the average scores of a young, normal score and to those of your peers to determine your bone loss and risk of fracture.

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What should I expect during a Bone Density Scan?

The DXA Scan is a relatively quick and completely painless procedure. During the procedure, you will lie on a padded table. You will be positioned to scan the lower spine, hip and/or forearm. Once positioned, a camera (detector) will pass over the area being tested and capture images. It is important that you remain still while the images are being taken. In addition to the physical tests that are performed, you will be asked medical history questions that will help determine if you have medical conditions or take certain medications that may increase or decrease your risk of a fracture. The results of the test will help predict your risks for hip fracture.

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What should I expect after the procedure?

Once the exam is complete, you may resume your normal activity level. Our Radiologist will analyze the images and forward a report to your physician or specialist who will discuss the results with you.

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How do I schedule a Bone Density Scan with Fairfax Radiology?

Contact our Scheduling Department for an appointment:

Phone: 703.698.4488 Monday through Friday 8am to 6pm

Fax: 703.698.0864

Or click here to make an appointment request

Please have your written physician order and your insurance card in hand when making your appointment.

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When are appointments offered for Bone Density Scans?

For your convenience, appointments are available mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends at multiple locations. Learn more about each location. Bone Density scans for pediatric patients (up to age 19) are offered at our Breast Center of Fairfax, Reston-Herndon Breast Center, Centreville Imaging Center, Vienna Imaging Center, Sterling Imaging Center and Breast Center of Loudoun.

Related Resources

Patient Resources

Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation

For more information, visit the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation

I've been a patient of Fairfax Radiological Consultants for years. My most recent experience was pleasant. I had a Mammogram and bone density test done within the same day. The receptionist was very friendly, receptive and efficient, as were the technicians. The wait time was minimal. I hope to remain a patient with Fairfax Radiological Consultants and would highly recommend your services to anyone.

Cheryl P

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