Bone Density / DXA

Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is today’s established standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD).

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the most widely used and most thoroughly studied bone density measurement technology. It uses two X-ray beams with different energy levels. The bone density can be determined from the absorption of each beam by bone.

As we age, many of us lose bone density. When that happens, bones become more porous and weaken, making them more susceptible to fractures. This condition is commonly referred to as Osteoporosis. In the United States, 55% of adults over 50, nearly 44 million people, are affected by the disease. Bone densitometry is the most accurate way to measure bone density and diagnose Osteoporosis.

Scanning generally takes  20 minutes to complete and is painless. You will simply lie still on the table during the testing. There is no IV or other injection needed for this test.


  • On the day of your exam, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes such as pants with an elastic waist.
  • Avoid wearing clothes with buttons, zippers or belts, as they could interfere with the scanner.
  • Do not take calcium supplements the day before and the day of your DXA scan.
  • On the day of your appointment, please bring a list of medications you are currently taking.
  • Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your exam for registration, and bring your health insurance information to your appointment.


  • Because of the risk of radiation exposure to the fetus, pregnant women are advised to avoid this procedure.
  • The scanner at University Center has a 350 pound maximum table weight and the scanner at RiverBend has a 450 pound maximum table weight.
  • DXA studies cannot be scheduled for seven days following imaging studies performed with contrast, such as nuclear medicine studies, barium enema, upper GI, IVP, CT or MRI.

A radiologist who is specially trained to interpret bone density scans will review your images. If the examination was routine, the results are provided to your physician within 48 hours. Your physician will consider the radiologist’s interpretation of your scan in the context of your overall care and contact you.

Q. What about radiation? Should I worry about exposure?

A. The radiation received during the scan is less than that of an airline flight from California to New York and back.

Q. What part of my body receives the scan?

A. It is most common to obtain measurements for your hips, but your physician may have specified additional scan locations.

Q. What should I do to prepare for my examination?

A. Bring a current medication list and stop taking any calcium, Tums or multivitamins 24 hours before your appointment.

The majority of DXA scans focus on the hips; your physician will discuss your study more specifically with you, or you may speak with your technician at the time of your appointment.