What is the best DEXA scan to choose?

Are you thinking of getting a DEXA (DXA) scan to find out your bone density? Do your research before you book your appointment, because not all DEXA scanners are created equal. DEXA machine

DEXA scans are one of the most exciting breakthroughs for bone health and the diagnosis of osteoporosis, but they can be used for so much more. DEXA – also referred to as DXA – is short for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. DEXA scans are safe, accurate, painless and non-invasive.

How does a DEXA scan work?

Radiation (X-rays) go through your body during the DEXA scan. Some of the radiation is taken in by the bone and soft tissue and some travels through your body.

The DEXA scanner works out how much radiation is being passed through your bones by directing X-ray energy through the bone at a very fast rate, alternating from two different sources.

This allows the scanner to work out your bone density. It can also calculate how this measurement compares to other people who are the same age and sex, giving a good indication as to whether you’re at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia (when the bone thins - often a precursor to osteoporosis).

Why women need a DEXA scan

Loss of bone density affect a lot of people – and is completely asymptomatic until a person fractures a bone, or suffers from kyphosis (when the back becomes bent over – also known as Dowager’s Hump).

Kyphosis is often a result of spine or vertebral fractures, which gradually causes the spine to weaken. It's believed that at least 15% of European women over the age of 50 suffer from fractures.

Not all DEXA Scanners are the same

All DEXA scanners should have sufficient resolution and accuracy to identify the risk factors for osteoporosis. However, only a few clinics offer the more advanced diagnostic features and DXA consultants qualified to produce a comprehensive prognostic report allowing a more detailed and comprehensive analysis of your health.

Trunk Fat

A DEXA scanner equipped with ‘Advanced Body Composition’ capabilities will provide an accurate indication of total fat in the trunk region, which is an important diagnostic marker of health in its own right. When fat accumulates here, doctors know this is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Furthermore, if the DEXA machine has a CoreScan option, the instrumentation can identify whether this fat is stored around vital internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. Once you know your risk factors, you can discuss how to reduce your risk with lifestyle changes or medications.

Lead DXA expert, Professor David Reid says: ‘After the first vertebral fracture women (and probably men too), have a one in five chance of a second fracture within a year. Identifying people with, and at risk of, vertebral fractures is extremely important and it is now possible with the DEXA scanner.’

Once someone knows they are at risk of osteoporosis, getting the right treatment can produce a reduction in risk of up to 70%, by using lifestyle changes as well as supplements and prescribed medication.

The advantages of DEXA

Whichever type of scan you might choose, it’s worth remembering that a DEXA scanner is a powerful tool with a far lower radiation exposure than a CT scan, or even an X-ray.

It is safe to use for general screening, unlike CT scans. CT scans are not recommended unless there is known to be a specific clinical need for the test. This is because there is a small but real elevated risk of cancer.

A DEXA scan is a quick and easy procedure, unlike an MRI scan, where you have to lie very still in an enclosed space, which may trigger claustrophobia.

Your doctor can refer you for a DEXA scan, you can also self-refer yourself to a private clinic. Once the DEXA scan is completed, you will have a better understanding of your health, and peace of mind.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for computed tomography, a scan that generates a series of cross-sectional x-ray images Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
A means of measuring bone density. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
The section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus. Full medical glossary
The major part of the digestive tract. Full medical glossary
an outward curvature of the spine associated with hunching of the back Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. Full medical glossary
Any test or technique that does not involve penetration of the skin. The term 'non-invasive' may also describe tumours that do not invade surrounding tissues. Full medical glossary

A  condition in which the protein and mineral content of bone tissue is reduced, but less severely than in osteoporosis.

Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
A gland behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin and glucagon, which together regulate glucose levels in the blood. Full medical glossary
A glandular organ that secretes digestive enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
Affecting the vertebrae, the bones of the spine, or the joints between them Full medical glossary
A type of electromagnetic radiation used to produce images of the body. Full medical glossary