Nov 9, 2016

What a DXA Screening is, and What It Can Tell You About Your Bones

When you start to experience symptoms of osteoporosis, you might be wondering what your next step is. How do you gain a better understanding of what your body is going through? Sometimes we cannot tell what is going on beneath the surface, which is where x-rays come in to provide a further review. 

Therefore, the first step to diagnosing osteoporosis is to receive a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) test from a trained physician. Keep reading to find out more about what DXA screening is and what it can tell you about your bones. 

What is DXA?

DXA tests involve much more effective technology than a typical X-ray, which is unable to show osteoporosis in the body until it is far more advanced. Although the name of this x-ray might sound overwhelming, a DXA is a simple and quick, non-invasive process. 

This enhanced form of x-ray scanning uses top-of-the-line radiation technology to measure bone mineral density accurately in a patient’s body. By assessing an estimate of bone density, your physician will then know how strong your bones currently are and which areas are weaker than others. The test focuses on two main areas of your body – the hip and spine. Both areas have a larger chance of fracturing and tend to lead to more severe side effects.

How does it work?

This screening test is a straightforward and quick process, usually over within 10 to 20 minutes. As the patient, you will lie on a padded table with an x-ray generator below you and an imaging device above you. While lying very still, the DXA detector slowly examines the area in need, generating images for the physician to review. 

It is imperative to remain still during the scan for more accurate results. Once the images are taken, they will then be printed and thoroughly reviewed to determine your bone mineral density.

When should I get one?

Physicians recommend that you receive a DXA scanning under certain circumstances. Below are a few of the following reasons why you should schedule a test:

  • You are a woman 65 years or older.
  • You are a man over the age of 70.
  • You break a bone after the age of 50 years old.
  • You are experiencing significant height loss.
  • You are a woman under 65 with certain risk factors.
  • You are a man age 50-69 with certain risk factors.
  • You are experiencing back pain with a break in your spine.

A DXA scan also can be used to assess how well osteoporosis treatment is working. And after a fracture, a DXA scan can determine if the break was likely due to osteoporosis.

Other reasons to have a DXA scan include:

  • A break or bone loss in your spine showed up in an X-ray.
  • You’ve lost a half-inch or more of height within one year.
  • You’ve had a total height loss of an inch and a half.

What’s next?

After receiving the results from your DXA, the physician can then determine your bone density level. This information will help them assess whether or not you need to be treated for osteoporosis. If the physician declares that your bone density levels are low, that does not necessarily mean that you have osteoporosis. 

However, it does mean that your chances of developing osteoporosis in the future are higher. Your physician will have a better understanding and make a diagnosis accordingly.

Our trained physicians at Carolina Arthritis perform dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) tests regularly. We will help assess and diagnose with the utmost care and expertise through quality technology and qualified professionals. Contact the experts at Carolina Arthritis today, and let’s get started on your treatment right away!