Bone Densitometry – DEXA
Bone densitometry (or DEXA) is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that measures bone mineral density and determines the strength of your bones. Certain medical conditions, medications and aging can lead to a loss of bone density and osteoporosis. With a loss of bone density, bones become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. Your doctor may want to establish a baseline bone density to determine whether you need treatment with medication. DEXA is most often performed on the lower spine and hips.
Medicare provides a rebate for medical conditions and symptoms it deems most relevant to bone densitometry studies, to enable a significant portion of the population inexpensive access. Depending on the medial conditions and symptoms, Medicare will only give a rebate for one scan in any two-year period. If you have had a scan within the last two years, please call us to discuss your options.
Before the scan
There must be a time interval of 2 weeks following a barium study or a nuclear medicine examination, before your bone density scan.
On the day of the examination you may eat normally. When you present for your scan, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire to determine if you meet Medicare’s criteria for a rebate. If you answer “NO” to all of the questions on the form, you are unlikely to qualify. Either way, if your doctor has requested bone densitometry, he or she will use the results to maximise your health management. When you book your appointment or come for your scan, our staff will give you an opportunity to ask questions.
There is no preparation required for bone densitometry. Wear a two-piece outfit if possible. You will not be required to undress but may be asked to remove metallic items such as jewellery, clothing with metal clips, belts, and keys, coins or a mobile phone from your pockets, as these can interfere with the images.
During the scan
The scan is straightforward and painless. You will be asked to lie on a padded couch and keep very still for up to 25 minutes. The radiation dose will depend on the study performed, however it is always very low and equivalent to less than one day of natural background radiation. The technologist will use the lowest dose necessary to achieve high quality images.
After the scan
A follow-up scan is usually performed in one to two years to determine the success of your treatment.
You may resume your normal activities after your bone densitometry, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. You will be advised before you leave the department if there are any instructions for you to follow.
One of our radiologists will interpret your bone density scan and provide your doctor with a comprehensive report about the findings. You will need to return to the doctor who referred you to discuss your results. Processing and reporting of your scan could take up to two hours. For your convenience we can generally deliver the images and report to your doctor by lunchtime the next working day.
If you require the results for a follow up appointment on the day of the scan, you can wait for the images and we will fax or electronically send the results to your doctor. Some of our referring doctors prefer that their patients wait for their images after the scan. You may arrange to collect the images at an alternative time, if you prefer that option.