A DEXA scan, or dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, is a non-invasive test that measures bone mineral density and assesses a woman’s risk for osteoporosis and fracture. It is a simple, painless procedure that exposes the patient to minimal radiation. The technician will take an X-ray picture of both the spine and hip. Occasionally, the forearm will be measured if there are other risk factors present. You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire which will assess your history and risk factors. This information will be used to calculate your “T-score” which is a measure of the amount of bone you have as compared to a same gender young adult with normal bone density. A score of -1 and above is considered normal. Osteopenia, or low bone mass, is defined by a score of -1.1 to -2.4. A score of -2.5 and below is considered osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a common condition that mostly affects women after menopause, but can also affect younger women and children. It causes thinning of the bones, which can make the bones more fragile and more likely to fracture with minimal trauma or injury. Common risk factors for osteoporosis include smoking, early menopause, chronic use of glucocorticoids, family history of osteoporosis, and a history of hyperthyroidism. If osteoporosis is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss further treatment with you. This could include calcium and Vitamin D supplementation, prescription medicine to increase bone mineral density, along with a program of regular, weight bearing exercise.