Franciscan Diagnostic Imaging - DEXA (Bone Density Scan)


Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is a painless and quick test to detect bone loss. This test, which uses a very low-dose radiation X-ray, is so accurate that it is considered the “gold standard” of all the available bone mineral density tests. Even if you have bone loss of less than 2%, DEXA can detect it.

DEXA uses radiation of less than 1/20th of a standard chest X-ray to establish the bone density of the spine, hip or wrist. A computer translates your bone mineral density into a number that can be compared to the peak bone density for your gender, height and weight. It can also be compared to DEXA tests done later to determine the rate of bone loss.

Osteoporosis, a disease that reduces the strength of your bones causing them to become brittle, lighter and considerably more prone to fractures, affects more than 20 million women and 5 million men in the United States. It used to be that osteoporosis went undiagnosed, progressing silently over the years, until a fracture occurred. With the development of DEXA, early diagnosis is possible and fractures associated with this disease can be prevented. Early diagnosis with the use of DEXA and other bone density tests have given physicians new tools not only to identify, but to treat and overcome osteoporosis.

Preparation before the procedure

Wear comfortable clothes without metal, buttons, buckles or zippers. You may be asked to undress and wear an examination gown without snaps and to remove jewelry.

If you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, it is very important to tell your physician or the X-ray technologist before the procedure.

DEXA is available at the Carol Milgard Breast Center, the Franciscan Breast Center at St. Francis, Franciscan Breast Center – Burien, Franciscan Medical Pavilion – Auburn or at several Franciscan Medical Group clinics.

For a more in depth look at this procedure, visit our Health Library page on this topic.