HSHS Medical Group in Springfield (2801 Mathers Rd.) now offers dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, scan bone densitometry testing to Medicare patients and patients 60 and up.
A DEXA scan is an imaging procedure that helps your health care provider track your bone density and identify your risk for having a broken bone. It is a quick and painless procedure that measures bone density or strength using very low levels of X-rays. DEXA scans are also an inexpensive and effective way to diagnose osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak to the point of breaking. It occurs when your body loses bone tissue faster than it can create new tissue. As bones get weaker, they are more likely to break. The most visible symptoms of osteoporosis may include loss of height along with curvature of the upper back. Osteoporosis can also result in painful fractures that occur most often in the hip, back or wrist.
Who needs a DEXA scan?
Your health care provider may recommend a DEXA scan if you have one or more risk factors:
• Advanced age—Aging brings a loss in bone mass. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a DEXA scan starting at age 65 for women and age 70 for men.
• Family history—If one or more family members have had osteoporosis or more than one fracture, you could be at higher risk for bone loss.
• Previous injuries—Breaking a bone, especially after age 50, may be a sign that you're at greater risk for bone loss. Bones break more easily when they are less dense.
• Medications—Some medications (e.g. prednisone, cancer drugs and drugs used after organ transplant) can weaken your bones.
• Chronic conditions—Many chronic medical disorders can weaken your bones, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, liver disease and kidney disease.
What happens during a bone densitometry test?
Before the test, your name, age, height, weight and ethnicity will be entered into the computer. This information is used to compare your results to a normal reference group. The bone densitometer is like a large examination table. It is padded and comfortable. You will be asked to lie on your back, remaining in normal clothing in most cases. Belt buckles, metal or thick plastic buttons and metal jewelry will need to be removed from the region being examined. The operator will position your arms and legs for the test; you just need to lie still and breathe normally. The test is painless and typically takes about 10 minutes.
Is the test safe?
Yes. Even though X-rays are used, the amount absorbed by the patient is only about 1/10 of that received from a chest X-ray.
Do you need a DEXA scan?
If you think you might be a candidate for a DEXA scan bone density test, talk to your primary care provider about a referral to HSHS Medical Group.
Rama Poola, MD, FACE, FACP, an endocrinologist with Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at HSHS Medical Group, provides outreach to patients with bone health problems at our Mathers Road location.