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Bone density scan (DEXA scan) – Patient Information

This patient information aims to answer some of the questions you may have about having an bone density scan (DEXA scan). It explains the benefits, risks and alternatives to the procedure.  It explains what you can expect when you come to hospital. If you have any further questions please speak to your consultant or the imaging department.

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What is a DEXA scan?

A DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) or bone density scan is a quick and painless way to measure bone density. It is often used to diagnose or assess your risk of osteoporosis.

Are there any risks?

A bone density scan is considered very safe for patients of any age. The radiation is so slow that the radiographer does not need to leave the room during the scan.
You will need to let the imaging team know if you think you may be pregnant.

Asking for your consent

The clinical team will ask you if you are happy for the DEXA scan to go ahead (verbal consent). If you do not wish to have the DEXA scan or are undecided, please tell the clinical team. It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please remember that you can ask the clinical team any questions you have at any time.

What happens during the scan?

Your radiographer will collect you from the waiting room to take you through to your scan where they will confirm your details. You may be asked to change into a gown. They will confirm your details with you such as your name some details with you, such as your name and date of birth.

You will then be asked to lie on the DEXA table

Commonly a quick scan of your left hip and lumbar spine is performed and the bone density calculations are done from those areas. This is not painful.

How long will the scan take?

The scan will take approximately 30 minutes.

How to prepare for the scan

Please ensure you have at least 30 minutes set aside for your appointment. If you have been given a referral for your scan please bring this with you to your appointment.

What do I need to wear?

For the scan you will be asked to remove any jewellery/metal objects and you may be asked to change into a down. If you can please avoid wearing clothes with zips, metal buttons or clothes made of thick material and wear clothes that are easy to remove.

When will I get the results?

The results will be sent to your referring doctor within 48 hours.

Can I bring a relative or friend?

You may bring a relative or friend with you in the waiting room, but they will usually not be able to go into the examination room.

Can I bring my children?

We do not have childcare facilities and children cannot go into the scan room with you. If you need to bring your children with you, please bring an adult who can look after them while you are having the examination.

Contact us

Please contact the Imaging team about any general concerns on 0207 467 4317. However, if you experience any symptoms of concern please contact your GP or go to your local Emergency Department (A&E).

Your comments and concerns

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, please speak to the staff caring for you. For support or advice please speak to your consultant or the Imaging department on 0207 467 4317.

Language and accessible support services
If you need an interpreter, information about your care in a different language or format or additional support needs, please get in touch with us before your arrival.

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