How to Prepare for a Bone Density Scan

By Contributor

To diagnose osteoporosis, doctors will usually use a reliable means of measuring a patient's bone density by performing a procedure known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). While it is a quick and unobtrusive procedure, there are some things you should do to prepare yourself for it. Read on to learn how to prepare for a bone density scan.

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How to Prepare for a Bone Density Scan. To diagnose osteoporosis, doctors will usually use a reliable means of measuring a patient's bone density by performing a procedure known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). While it is a quick and unobtrusive procedure, there are some things you should do to prepare yourself for it. Read on to learn how to prepare for a bone density scan.

Discontinue your ingestion of calcium supplements at least 48 hours before your scheduled DEXA scan. Increased calcium levels introduced by the use of calcium supplements can lead to inaccurate readings which can complicate the diagnosis of any bone problems that may be present.

Stop taking any medications you are currently using for osteoporosis (or for osteopenia, its precursor) on the day of your scan.

Eat as your normally would on the day of your bone density scan and on the days leading up to it. Other than avoiding calcium supplements, there are no dietary factors which might contribute to an inaccurate reading of your bone mineral density.

Tell your doctor if you have recently swallowed barium as part of an X-ray for gastrointestinal discomfort. Any other solution taken to highlight a specific part of your internal anatomy for radiation-based examination (called a "contrast material") should also be reported.

Wait at least two weeks if you have taken barium or any other contrast material before you undergo your DEXA scan. The presence of contrast materials may interfere with the accuracy of your test results and will need to be completely eliminated from your system before the test.

Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes on the day of your DEXA scan. Avoid donning any items of clothing with metal zippers or buttons of any kind, or you may be asked to remove your clothes.

Tell the technician performing the DEXA scan if you have recently suffered any hip or back injuries. The technician will also measure the hip located on the same side of your body as your non-dominant hand to prepare for the test. Most will assume you are right-handed, so be sure to inform the technician if you are left-handed.

Tip

Leave jewelry at home when you go for your DEXA scan. Metal objects can interfere with accurate readings of your bone density, and your doctor or technician will probably ask you to remove them before the procedure is performed.

Warning

Pregnant women should explore alternatives to standard bone density scans because radiation-based scanning procedures can be harmful to the health of the fetus.

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