A DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, is a special X-ray procedure that can be used to measure the bone mineral density, in order to assess your risk of breaking a bone. In general, if the density is low, or you lack calcium or vitamin D, then there’s a greater chance of a fracture.
DXAs are often used to help diagnose health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis, or to assess your risk of getting them. They can also be used to detect other bone disorders and conditions, such as osteopenia, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and osteomalacia.
A DXA can also be used to measure your body composition – so it can tell you the percentages of bone, lean muscle and body fat you have, as well as where it’s stored.
What DXA equipment is there?
We use a Lunar iDXA, which is the most advanced equipment with high clarity and accuracy. The machine we have is special because it is large – 7ft, with a scan area of around two metres – which is long enough for basketball players to be scanned.
Who can have a DXA at MIHP?
A DXA scan has to be authorised by a consultant at Nuffield Health. Due to radiation regulations, we can only do body composition scans on elite athletes.
For bone mineral density scans, they’re recommended if you’re over 50, or if you have:
- broken a bone in the past
- a health condition like arthritis
- taken oral glucocorticoids for 3 months or more
- had an early menopause, or had your ovaries removed before the age of 45, and haven’t had hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- gone through menopause and: smoke or drink heavily; have a family history of hip fractures, or have a body mass index (BMI) or less than 21
- gaps of more than a year between periods.
What does a DXA scan involve?
A DXA scan is fast, simple and completely painless. The whole procedure should take about 20 minutes. You should wear loose, comfortable clothing without metal buttons, snaps or zips around the waist or hip area.
For the bone mineral density scan you’ll lie flat on your back on a padded table while a machine takes images of your spine, forearms and hips.
For a body composition scan, the machine will sweep over your body from head to toe. This is typically used twice a year, so you can see whether your fat or muscle mass has gone up or down.
When will I get the results of my DXA scan?
The results will be verified by a radiologist and sent to you within a week. A copy of your results will also be sent to your GP, and you may be advised to visit your GP for further management if necessary.
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