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Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry

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by Randall B

(Bone Mineral Density Testing; DEXA; DXA; Central DXA; Peripheral DXA)


Reasons for Test

This test will help your doctor assess the density of your bones. It will help determine if you have osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. This information may be used to predict your risk of bone fractures.
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What to Expect

Prior to Test

Description of Test

Central DXA
Central DXA measures bone density in the hip and spine. You will be asked to lie on a table. Your position will depend on the area being examined. You will be asked to hold still and may be asked to hold your breath while the X-ray is taken. The X-ray will be taken and sent to a computer monitor.
Peripheral DXA
Peripheral DXA measures bone density in the finger, hand, forearm, or foot. The area being examined will be placed in a small device. The device will provide a bone density reading in a few minutes.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10 minutes

Will It Hurt?



The test results are usually available within a few days. Your test results will show two types of scores:
  • T score—This number shows the amount of bone you have in comparison to a young adult of the same gender with peak bone mass. A score above -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 may mean you have osteopenia, the first stage of bone loss. A score below -2.5 means you may have osteoporosis.
  • Z score—This number shows the amount of bone you have in comparison to other people of your age group, gender, and race. A score below -2 is considered abnormal.
These test results will help your doctor determine your risk for bone fractures.


The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

National Osteoporosis Foundation



Health Canada

Osteoporosis Canada



Bone density scan. website. Available at: Updated April 12, 2012. Accessed December 3, 2012.

American College of Radiology. Guideline for the Performance of Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. Available at: Accessed February 20, 2014

National Osteoporosis Foundation. Clinician's Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Washington, DC: National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2010. Available at: Accessed December 3, 2012.

Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 5, 2012. Accessed December 3, 2012.

Osteoporosis: bone density tests. Am Acad Orthop Surg Bull. 1999;47(3).

Sartoris D, Dalinka MK, Alazraki N. Osteoporosis and bone mass measurement. Radiology. 2000;215(suppl):397-414.


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