Bone densitometry

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital offers bone density testing (DEXA) to help predict fracture risk in the same manner that measuring blood pressure can help predict the risk of stroke.

The DEXA scan is a non-invasive, painless x-ray image of the hip and lower spine which helps diagnose osteopenia (bone loss) and osteoporosis (weak bones). The test is more sensitive than ordinary x-ray and can evaluate bone mineral density (BMD) to determine the degree of bone loss, which occurs as we age and as a result of some medications. Treatment of early bone loss can reduce your risk of osteoporosis related fractures, hospitalizations and mortality.

How should I prepare?

  • On the day of the exam you may eat normally. You should not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.
  • You should wear loose, comfortable clothing, avoiding garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal. Objects such as keys or wallets that would be in the area being scanned should be removed.
  • You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, removable dental appliances, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.

Women should always inform their physician and x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation. If an x-ray is necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.

What will I experience during and after the procedure?

Bone density tests are a quick and painless procedure.

Your doctor may recommend routine evaluations every two years; shorter intervals of testing may be necessary to evaluate for significant change in bone mineral density. Few patients, such as patients on high dose steroid medication, may need follow-up at six months.