Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) Test: About This Test

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What is it?

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is a test that uses two different X-ray beams to check bone thickness (density) in your spine and hip. This information is used to estimate the strength of your bones.

Why is this test done?

A DXA test is done to check for bone thinning and weakness, which can make it easier for you to break a bone. It is often done for:

  • People who are at risk for osteoporosis, including:
    • Women and men who are age 65 and older.
    • People who take some medications, such as corticosteroids.
    • People who have certain medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism.
  • People who have osteoporosis, to see how well treatment is working.

What happens before the test?

  • Women who are pregnant should not have this test. Let your doctor know if you are or might be pregnant.
  • You may be able to leave your clothes on for the test, but you will remove any metal buttons or buckles for the test.

What happens during the test?

  • You will lie down on your back on a padded table.
  • You may need to lie with your legs straight or with your lower legs resting on a platform built into the table.
  • The machine will scan your bones and measure the amount of radiation they absorb. During this test you are exposed to a very low dose of radiation.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about 20 minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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