Information for patients requiring a Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) Scan

This information leaflet has been produced to give you general information and hopes to answer most of your questions when requiring a Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) scan. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have questions or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

Please contact us prior to your scan if:

  • You are receiving treatment with drugs containing gold or platinum. 
  • You are, or might be, pregnant.
  • You have had a myelogram at some time in the past.
  • You have had a Barium meal, enema or nuclear medicine investigation in the last month. 

What is a Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) Scan?

A bone mineral density scan can also be referred to as a DEXA scan; this stands for Dual Emission X-ray Absorptiometry. It is a test that uses a special x-ray machine to measure your bone density. By measuring bone density it is possible for your doctor to determine if you have a condition called osteoporosis.

How should I prepare for a Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) Scan?

There is no special preparation required for your scan and you can eat and drink normally.

It would help if you wear clothing without metal in (for example; zips or hooks and eyes), this is because metal can interfere with the scan readings. If you do attend wearing clothing that might interfere with the scan, you would be required to wear a gown. 

Can I take my prescribed medicine as usual? 

There is no need to stop taking any prescribed medicine prior to or after your scan.

Can I bring a relative or friend?

Yes, but for safety reasons they will not be able to accompany you into the Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) scan room except in very special circumstances.

What happens at the hospital before the scan?

The Bone Mineral Assessment Department is situated in the Windy Nook Outpatients Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

On arrival please report to the receptionist in the Windy Nook Outpatients Department as it is important that we know you have arrived. You will then be asked to take a seat in the waiting area. When the room is ready for you a member of staff will call you into the scan room.

What happens during a Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) scan?

In the scan room a member of staff will explain the examination to you and what to expect. You will be asked some questions and your height and weight will be taken, the Bone Mineral Density scan uses this information along with your scan to calculate your bone density. You can ask any questions you may have.

Using very small amounts of x-rays, it is possible to measure the amount of bone an individual has at various sites throughout the body. Usually, images of the spine and one of the hips are taken to measure bone density in these areas. You will be asked to lie on the scanner which is not enclosed. The appointment will normally take no more than half an hour. 

How long does the scan take?

Your appointment will usually last between 20 and 25 minutes.

We will try to keep to your appointment time but occasionally a scan may take longer. This may mean your appointment could be delayed. We will let you know if this is the case. 

Are there any risks?

As with x-rays, Bone Mineral Density scans use radiation. The level of radiation is extremely low and the benefits of the scan are thought to outweigh any risks.

What happens after the examination?

There are no side effects to a Bone Mineral Density scan. You will be able to leave once your scan is complete. You can eat and drink as normal and resume normal activities.

How do I find out the results of my scan?

The doctor who asked us to perform your scan will receive your results. If you were referred by your GP please contact them in four weeks to arrange a follow up appointment for your results. If your referral was from a consultant they will contact you regarding your results, please note this may take up to six weeks.

Who do I contact if I have concerns?

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact:

Appointments Team on (0191) 445 2491

Fracture Liaison Nurse on (0191) 482 0000 (hospital switchboard)

Bone Mineral Density Department on (0191) 445 3470

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential.  There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible.

In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, research, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews.  Further information is available in the leaflet Disclosure of Confidential Information IL137, via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website or the PALS Service. 

This leaflet can be made available in other languages and formats upon request.