If your GP thinks you are at risk of poor bone health or carrying a high amount of visceral fat, you may be referred for a DEXA scan. Being referred for any scan can be nerve-wracking. The good news is that DEXA scans are a quick, convenient and non-invasive way to detect conditions (osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease for example) before they become a problem.
What Is A DEXA Scan?
First, the terminology:
- DEXA – also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, bone densitometry or more commonly, bone density scanning. This enhanced X-ray technology is the diagnostic tool of choice to measure bone mineral density (BMD). Also used for other body composition measurements including body fat.
- BMD – bone mineral density. A BMD test can detect osteopenia and osteoporosis by measuring the density (strength) of your bones in the hip and spine as represented by calcium content.
- QCT – An alternative to DEXA, Quantitative Computed Tomography is performed on a CT scanner and also measures BMD. QCT is generally used when DEXA is not available (e.g. in rural areas). However, research shows that a QCT scan can detect low bone mass earlier than other scans as it isolates the soft bone in the spine for analysis (soft bone is affected earlier than hard bone) (source).
A Dexa Scan is quick, painless and safe. It takes approximately 15- 20 minutes for the scanner to pass over specific areas of your body while you lie on your back. Results are interpreted by an imaging specialist and passed on to your GP. Please discuss getting your results with your clinician on the day of your scan. You can eat and drink on the day of your test, but make sure you read preparing for your DEXA test.
Should I Have A DEXA Scan?
If your doctor recommends a DEXA scan, it is a good idea to follow their advice. Knowing what is going on inside your body will help you make lifestyle changes to improve health and prevent disease.
Some reasons your GP might refer you for a DEXA scan include:
You have recently fractured a bone in circumstances that wouldn’t normally cause a fracture.
Early menopause or your ovaries were removed before the age of 45 (and you haven’t had HRT)
You have other risk factors for low bone density (family history, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease)
DEXA scans are also the most accurate way to measure your body fat percentage and pinpoint its location, specifically, fat located in the abdominal cavity. Fat stored around the internal organs, known as visceral fat, is dangerous and puts you at a higher risk of a range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. The body composition data provided from a DEXA scan can be interpreted to help you make changes to your diet and exercise regime. A follow-up DEXA scan will help you see the positive effects of these changes.
DEXA Scans In Sydney, Shoalhaven and Illawarra
Vision Xray is pleased to offer DEXA Scanning at the following locations:
- Sydney DEXA Scanning – Macquarie Street, Haymarket, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Revesby
- Southern Highlands DEXA Scanning – Vision Xray Bowral
- Shoalhaven DEXA Scanning – Vision Xray Nowra
- Illawarra DEXA Scanning – Vision Xray Wollongong