Osteoporosis Screening (DEXA) at RCI
What is a DEXA bone density scan?
Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is an imaging technology that uses a very low amount of x-ray energy to detect the presence of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, leading to bone fragility and an increased chance of fractures to the spine, hips and wrists. This weakening may be due to aging or caused by other risk factors that combine with age. Often called the "silent disease," osteoporosis rarely shows symptoms until a lot of bone mass has been lost. The most visible symptoms may include loss of height along with curvature of the upper back.
DEXA scanning can identify low bone density in patients at an early stage, enabling doctors to prescribe appropriate treatment before the condition worsens.
Who needs a DEXA bone density scan?
While the disease affects both men and women, 80% of those affected are women. In fact, 22 million American women are affected by osteoporosis. Women have a higher risk for osteoporosis than men because women often have smaller, thinner frames. In addition, menopause causes women to produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps protect them against bone loss; 20% of bone mass can be lost in the 5-7 years following menopause. If you are nearing menopause, your doctor or healthcare professional can give you good advice to help you avoid future problems with osteoporosis. If you are post-menopausal, stay in touch with your doctor to monitor your bone health on a regular basis.
Falling into any of the below categories may add to the risk of osteoporosis:
- Caucasian or Asian
- Advanced age
- History of bone fracture
- Small, thin frame
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Post menopause, including early or surgically induced
- Low calcium diet
- Lack of exercise
- Eating disorders
- Abnormal absence of menstrual periods
- Certain medicines (such as steroids and anticonvulsants)
- Alcohol or tobacco use
How do I make an appointment for a bone density exam at RCI?
If you don't know whether or not you have osteoporosis, ask your doctor if a bone density test is right for you. Your doctor will need to refer you for this exam. For your convenience, bone density exams can be scheduled along with your mammogram appointment at the RCI Imaging Center. Just ask your primary care physician for a referral, or call for an appointment at 319-364-0121.
How should I prepare for my bone density exam at RCI?
You should not take any calcium supplements the morning of your exam. Wear comfortable clothing that has no metal zippers or buttons in the abdominal or pelvic areas; otherwise, we may ask you to change into a gown. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
What can I expect?
You will be asked to lie on your back on a padded table while a movable arm passes over your body. A technologist will remain with you and you will feel no sensations from the exam, which typically takes 15-30 minutes.
After your bone density exam at RCI
Your test results combined with other factors give you and your doctor an overall risk of fracture. Knowing your risk of a fracture is important, because there are many ways to prevent osteoporosis and to reduce fracture risks. After reviewing your DEXA scan results, your doctor may suggest a number of steps important in building bone strength. Suggestions may include exercise, changes in diet, hormone therapy or other medicines known to improve bone strength.
For more information on this and other radiology procedures, please visit www.radiologyinfo.org.
RCI is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).