What Is a Bone Densitometry Exam?
Bone densitometry, also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA for short, uses a special kind of X-ray machine to measure the amount of energy your bones absorb. This exam shows the strength and density of your bones.
Bone densitometry helps diagnose and track the treatment of osteoporosis and other conditionscausing bone loss. Our team takes special care to ensure the lowest radiation dose possible while producing the best image quality for evaluation during your X-ray. Bone densitometry imaging takes about 10 to 30 minutes.
How to Prepare for Bone Densitometry
- Contrast - Let your doctor know if you recently had a barium exam or if you have been injected with IV contrast for a CT or radioiosotope scan. You may have to wait 10 to 14 days before undergoing bone densitometry imaging, also known as a DEXA test.
- When to Arrive - Please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time to check in and fill out any paperwork. Do not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.
- Eating & Drinking - You may continue to eat and drink as you normally would on the day of your bone densitometry imaging.
- Medicines - You can continue taking your normal medication on the day of your bone densitometry imaging, except for calcium supplements.
- Clothing - Please wear loose, comfortable clothing, preferably without metal such as zippers, buttons or underwire bras. Metal may blur the images. We may ask you to remove jewelry, eyeglasses or anything else that may interfere with the X-ray. We may ask you to change into a hospital gown for clearer images.
- Pregnancy - Please let your doctor or technologist know if there is any possibility you could be pregnant when you come in for your X-ray imaging. We may not perform imaging during pregnancy but if an X-ray is necessary, we will take precautions to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.
Miriam Bredella, MD, MBA
- Vice Chair, Department of Radiology
- Director, Center for Faculty Development
- Professor, Harvard Medical School