How does a Bone Density scan work?

How does a Bone Density scan work?

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We are fortunate to have access to a DEXA machine at our Parramatta clinic. This is the machine we use to measure bone density. You may hear these scans also referred to as a "DEXA scan." Monitoring bone density is an important consideration for many of my clients. You may have read in last weeks blog, that exercise can play a powerful role in improving bone density in certain individuals.

We know it's an important test to take at the right time, and thankfully we feel its one of the nicer scans to have! So we thought we’d allay any concerns you may have about having your bone density checked, and explain exactly what’s involved.

The Machine
The Machine consists of a comfortable bed, with a beam that will move across your body when you are appropriately positioned.
The good news is, it’s pretty quiet! And pretty comfy! It is not unusual for people to drift off for a quick nap whilst getting their test done.

The Scan
It's actually better than you would think! Initially the attendant will check that you have removed any clothing with metal. Think belt buckles, jeans ect. Metal items will definitely effect your scan results so we make sure we get these out of the way! Your attendant will then ask you to lie on your back and make sure you are comfortable. The 3 sites typically scanned are the lower back, hip and forearm. The good news is that typically, only 2 sites are needed at any given time. So dependent on what area is being tested, your attendant will move your legs and hips into particular positions. But don’t worry, all the positions are pretty relaxing! The beam will then pass on top of you and take the image we need. Each scan would take no longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. Nice and quick. Although you are exposed to radiation when having your bone density scan, it is less than what you are exposed to taking a flight to Perth or having a Chest Xray.

The Results
We get the results pretty much straight away. Your attendant will need to spend a little time after the scan making small edits to the image and making sure they have captured exactly the right areas. But again this is something that doesn’t take too long. No more than 5 minutes in my experience. Your results will be classified as either normal, osteopenic or osteoporotic. Its is common to have slightly different results at different sites.
Once we have your results, at BJC we also use something called the FRAX tool to help better quantity an individuals risk of fracture. 
Your bone density test results as well as the outcome from the FRAX tool are formulated into a report. The report is then forwarded to you, your GP, and/or whoever referred you to have the scan.

Other facts
When having your bone density tested, it's important to remember where you went for your first scan. Due to the different type of DEXA machines out there, we always advise that its best to keep repeat scans being performed by the same machine to minimize error.

Bone Density is an important consideration for many of my clients. Hopefully the piece above helps clarify what to expect if you ever need to get it tested. 

If you have already had your bone density tested, do you agree with my sentiments? Was your bone density scan quick and comfortable?

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