DXA scan for osteoporosis

What is a DXA scan?

A DXA (Dual energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan is used to measure the density of your bones in order to see if you have osteoporosis. It uses a very low dose of radiation - less than you would get if you took a return flight to Spain, and about one tenth of the dose you would receive if you had a chest X-ray.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle due to a loss of bone mass (or bone density) and a change in bone structure. This means that bones are more likely to break or fracture. Further information is available from the National Osteoporosis Society: www.nos.org.uk

Why am I having a DXA scan?

A DXA scan may have been requested for you for many reasons. For example if:

  • You are over 50 years of age and have recently broken a bone.
  • You are a post-menopausal woman and are considered to be at intermediate or high risk of having osteoporosis.
  • You have breast cancer and are being treated with aromatase inhibitors.
  • You are taking long-term glucocorticoid treatment.
  • You have a disease, such as coeliac disease, that increases your risk of having osteoporosis.

Where will the scan take place?

The DXA scanner is on Level 1 Gate 5 at Southmead Hospital.

What happens when I come in for the scan?

The equipment we use for the DXA scan is similar to that in the picture, and does not involve you being in any way enclosed or confined; it is not an MRI scan.

The scan will take about 15 minutes. You will lie on your back on the couch while the scanning arm passes over you. A single pillow is available. The DXA technician will be in the room with you at all times.

We will usually scan each of your hips and your lower spine. In some cases we may also scan your forearm.

Do I need to get undressed?

We may need you to wear a gown if there is any metal on your clothing around the areas we scan. If you can wear trousers or a skirt without a zip or metal fasteners (so with an elasticated waistband for example) that would be helpful. We also need to ask for bras to be removed before the scan.

What happens after the scan?

The results of your scan will be sent to your GP or consultant within 4 weeks of your scan, and they will advise you if any further action is needed.

If you or the individual you are caring for need support reading this leaflet please ask a member of staff for advice.

How to contact us:

Brunel building, Southmead Hospital
BS10 5NB

See your appointment letter for the phone number to call with any queries you may have

© North Bristol NHS Trust. This edition published December 2023. Review due December 2026. NBT002168

DXA scan for osteoporosis