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DEXA (DXA) scans are used to measure bone density and assess theÂ risk of bone fractures.
They'reÂ often used to help diagnose bone-related conditions such as osteoporosisÂ (or the risk of developing it).
Total body DEXA scans canÂ also be used to measure body composition (the amount of bone, fat and muscle in the body). This type of scan is routinely used in children, but is still a research application in adults.
Unlike ordinary X-ray images, DEXA scans can measure veryÂ small reductions in bone mineral density. This makes it possible toÂ diagnose osteoporosis in its early stages before fractures occur.
Doctors use the results of DEXA scans to help them decide whether treatment for low bone mineral density is needed.
This may include making lifestyle changes to help improve your bone health, such as:
AÂ DEXA scan may be recommended if you have an increasedÂ risk of developing a bone condition such as osteoporosis.Â Your risk is increasedÂ if you:
A DEXA scan isn't the only way of measuring bone strength or fragility. Other risk factors need to be taken into consideration, such as family history and medication use, to determine who's at risk of developing bone fractures.
All of theÂ risk factors will need to be considered before a DEXA scan is recommended and before any treatment is started.
Some people will need to have a DEXA scanÂ to confirm that their risk of developing bone fractures is high enough to need treatment. For others, particularly the elderly, the risk of fracture may be so high that there's no need for them to have a DEXA scan before treatment is prescribed.
InterpretingÂ the results of a DEXA scan can sometimes be difficult. For example, it may not be easy to interpret the results of a scan of the spine when someone has a degenerative condition, such as osteoarthritis. Sometimes, spinal abnormalities or a previous spinal fracture can give a false result.
A DEXA scan won't show whether low bone mineral density is due to osteoporosis (too little bone) or osteomalacia (too little calcium in bone, usually due to a lack of vitamin D).
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