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Bone Density Scan machine

DEXA - Bone Density Scan

Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, previously DEXA) is a means of measuring bone mineral density (BMD). Two X-ray beams, with different energy levels, are aimed at the patient's bones. When soft tissues absorption is subtracted out, the BMD can be determined from the absorption of each beam by bone. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry is the most widely used and most thoroughly studied bone density measurement technology.

The DXA scan is typically used to diagnose and follow osteoporosis, as contrasted to the nuclear bone scan, which is sensitive to certain metabolic diseases of bones in which bones are attempting to heal from infections, fractures, or tumors.

DXA scans are used primarily to evaluate bone mineral density. DXA scans can also be used to measure total body composition and fat content with a high degree of accuracy comparable to hydrostatic weighing with a few important caveats. However, it has been suggested that, while very accurately measuring minerals and lean soft tissue (LST), DXA may provide skewed results due to its method of indirectly calculating fat mass by subtracting it from the LST and/or body cell mass (BCM) that DXA actually measures. DXA scans are also used to assess adiposity in children, especially to conduct clinical research.

A person's risk can be measured using theWorld Health Orginization's FRAX calculator, which includes many different clinical risk factors including prior fragility fracture, use of glucocorticoids, heavy smoking, excess alcohol intake, rheumatoid arthritis, history of parental hip fracture, chronic renal and liver disease, chronic respiratory disease, long-term use of phenobarbital or phenytoin, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other risks.


DEXA assessment of bone mineral density of the femoral neck (A) and the lumbar spine (B): T scores of - 4.2 and - 4.3 were found at the hip (A) and lumbar spine (B), respectively in a 53-year-old male patient affected with Fabry disease.

The World Health Organization has defined the following categories based on bone density in white women:
Severe (established) osteoporosis A T-score more than 2.5 standard deviations below the young adult female reference mean in the presence of one or more fragility fractures.

The WHO committee did not have enough data to create definitions for men or other ethnic groups.
Special considerations are involved in the use of DXA to assess bone mass in children. Specifically, comparing the bone mineral density of children to the reference data of adults (to calculate a T-score) will underestimate the BMD of children, because children have less bone mass than fully developed adults. This would lead to an over-diagnosis of osteopenia for children. To avoid an overestimation of bone mineral deficits, BMD scores are commonly compared to reference data for the same gender and age (by calculating a Z-score).

Also, there are other variables in addition to age that are suggested to confound the interpretation of BMD as measured by DXA. One important confounding variable is bone size. DXA has been shown to overestimate the bone mineral density of taller subjects and underestimate the bone mineral density of smaller subjects. This error is due to the way by which DXA calculates BMD. In DXA, bone mineral content (measured as the attenuation of the X-ray by the bones being scanned) is divided by the area (also measured by the machine) of the site being scanned.

DXA uses X-rays to assess bone mineral density. The radiation dose of the older original DEXA systems was low with approximately 1/10 that of a standard chest X-ray, causing little interest from the radiation dose specialists. However, the dose of the DEXA systems of the second-generation can be as high as 35 mGy.

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