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DEXA scan

DEXA stands for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry.  This type of scan is used to help diagnose/monitor osteoporosis or assess its risk of developing. 

It may also be used to detect other bone disorders or conditions.  A DEXA scan can calculate the strength of a person’s bones by measuring how much calcium there is in them, this is often called bone mineral density (BMD).

During the scan you will be asked to lie flat on your back while an x-ray arm moves over the centre of you.  The scan is performed in two parts which allows measurements to be taken from the hip and the spine.  Occasionally a third scan of the wrist is required.  All the scans are very quick easy and painless, the only important thing is that you lie still.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why have I been referred for a DEXA scan?

Usually people are sent for a DEXA scan because you have broken a bone after a fall or minor injury.  If this does not apply to you other reasons include:
• Being on steroid medication for three months or more, as this can reduce bone density.
• Having a condition which may lead to a low bone density such as rheumatoid arthritis, chron’s disease, celiac disease, early menopause, anorexia and alcoholism.  (Please note this is just a small number of examples, there are many more conditions which indicate the need for a DEXA scan.)

Is a DEXA scan harmful?

Dexa scans are commonly performed and are safe.  This is because they use only a very small dose of radiation.  This dose is equivalent to less than one day’s natural background radiation.

How long will it take?

Scans normally take no longer than 20 minutes.

What shall I wear?

Ideal clothing would be elasticised trousers or skirts, t-shirts or thin jumpers.  Please do not wear any clothes with metal, buttons or zips as they can contribute to the measurements if they appear in the scan field.  We appreciate that not everyone has these types of clothing so don’t worry if you haven’t there are gowns are available to change into before the scan.

I’m claustrophobic or don’t like small spaces

DEXA scans are NOT performed in a tunnel or closed space like CT and MRI scans.  The scan arm which passes over you during the scan is a significant distance from the table.  Each scan takes no longer than five minutes.

How do I get my results?

If your referral was made by your GP the results should normally be available within four weeks.  However if your referral was made by a consultant you will receive an appointment letter to come and discuss your results within four to six weeks.  If you do not receive your results within the stated time frame you should contact either your GP if they made the referral, or your referring consultant’s secretary.

What happens if I do have osteoporosis or another bone condition?

If your results indicate osteoporosis or another bone condition you may be required to begin treatment or simply make some lifestyle changes.  Your doctor will advise you of this after taking your results, family history and any other affecting risks of factors into consideration.  Please be aware that everybody is different and all patients are reviewed on an individual basis.

Opening Times

The DEXA scan department is open from Monday – Thursday 9.00am -5.00pm and Friday 2.00pm -5.00pm

  • Location and Contact
    Dexa Appointments 0191 445 2491
  • Dexa Scan Room 0191 445 3470

The DEXA scan room is situated in the Jubilee Day Unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  This can be easily found by using the entrance to the right of the Peter Smith Surgery Centre.  If enter through the Outpatient entrance please follow the signs for the Jubilee Wing.  The use of the main entrance is not advised, particularly for wheelchair users due to its location from the Jubilee Day Unit. 

Call us on 0191 482 0000

In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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