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Dexa Scan (Bone Density Test ) : A Concise Explanation Of The Test (With Cost)


Dexa scan stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan which is principally conducted to check bone density, which is why it is sometimes also referred to as bone density test. Moreover Dexa scan test also reveals whether the person in question is suffering from osteoporosis or not.

Releasing two x-ray beams in terms of density from two different x-ray chambers that surface on an individual’s bone to give a vivid image of any fracture or loss of bone density does this particular scan. Dexa scan is relatively more accurate and forgiving than nuclear bone scans. The reason being that nuclear bone scan can hinder the process of bone recuperation from any kind of fracture, tumor or infections.

Dexa scan is also hassle free for the patients since it does not demand any specific limitations, a routine to follow or any lengthy preparations.


Types of DEXA scan

DEXA scan can be categorized into two different types, each having their own set of separate machines. These are:

  • Central DEXA- This scan test is done to determine whether you are at risk of having brittle hipbones. During this scan, the patient is made to lie down on the soft table so the x-ray passes evenly on the body.
  • Peripheral DEXA - This type of DEXA scan is easily accessible in almost all diagnostic centers now days.  Due to the fact that the machines are small and portable. Peripheral DEXA scan is meant for measuring bone density of ankles, wrists and fingers.

Procedure of Dexa Scan test

Contrary to other scan tests like MRI and CT scan, Dexa Scan does not confine the person in any kind of enclosed ring of high magnetic fields. It is rather done on an x-ray table that allows the person to undergo the test without creating any claustrophobic circumstance, which is a concern for, quite a few.

Another benefit of the Dexa scan is the fact that it can be done by staying fully clothed. However there is definitely some directive to be followed if the person is wearing clothes that use hooks and zips as fasteners. Female patients may be provided gown.

The Dexa scan follows the following procedure:

  • A radiographer proceeds with the entire set of equipment.
  • Making the person lie on the x-ray table commences the scan.
  • A scanning arm is initiated which releases the x-ray beams in two different intensity levels.
  • The scanning arm is positioned over the center of the skeleton. During this process of the Dexa scan, the equipment releases low-density x-ray over the body.

As osteoporosis is typically affects the hipbones and the spine, the scanning is positioned in such a way so the diagnosis can be done in the right area.

Dexa scan may also be conducted for conditions like hyperparathyroidism wherein the scanning arm runs through the forearm.

The display screen beneath the table records the amount of radiation that has been absorbed by the body.

The procedure ends after approximately 10-15 minutes.

To ensure safety and accurate results, it is always advised that the patient be lying flat by avoiding any physical nudges or movement. Also, pregnant women must notify their doctors if they are to take this test. Rest assured, this test is absolutely pain free and requires no before or after preparations.

Can Dexa scan detect cancer?

As mentioned before, Dexa scan is a test meant particularly for the bones to check for osteoporosis and even hyperthyroidism wherein the forearm of the person is scanned. But the benefits of the scan are not restricted to these aforementioned health concerns alone. Dexa scan may be advised for detecting cancer as well. After a thorough examination of bone density and its possible complications, baseline DEXA scan may also be the next step for detecting cancer. The purpose of the entire process of the scan is to see whether the cancerous cells have gone through the bones or not.

Nevertheless, the primary purpose of DEXA scan is to check the bone density. By and large, cancer stems from certain ill habits that people adopt over time; excessive smoking and drinking are two such poor lifestyle habits that trigger cancer among people.

Verticals of DEXA scan results

Once the DEXA scan is complete, the test result becomes imperative to comprehend in the right way. DEXA scan results too have certain verticals, break-even levels which suggest if the person is on the safer side or has some more diagnosis to go through. These verticals are:

  • T-score – This is basically the difference of bone density, which is calculated with the levels of an average person in good health, and the one who has undergone this particular test. The score also indicates the imminent risk of any damage that might be caused due to low density.

World Health Organization has recognized the T-score, which is calculated in standard deviation, or SD. While -1 SD is considered to be normal, a T-score of -2.5 has been identified as osteoporosis.

  • Z-score- This score is calculated for bone density in accordance with the patient’s age, gender and the race he has ancestry of. It must be noted that the age of the patient and person whose numbers are being used as benchmark are the same.

How much does it cost for a DEXA scan? 

DEXA scan is widely regarded as “gold standard” in the medical fraternity for the reason that the test is conducted by emitting minimal radiation thereby reducing both time and error in results. Compared to QCT test, DEXA scan has reasonable costs that have made things easier finance wise as well.

The cost of whole body DEXA scans ranges anywhere between INR 1000 to 3000 (approx., it may vary). The test can be availed at any leading healthcare facility across India and the globe.

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