Six Questions to Ask Before a DXA Scan

iStock

Thinking about having a DXA scan or bone density scan? Here are some important things you should know.

Can I take oral calcium the day of my scan?

Do not take supplemental calcium 24 hours before your test. Undissolved calcium can cause an artifact (shadow) on the scan, so it's best to skip your calcium dose the day before the test.

I have body piercings; do they need to be removed?

Remove all jewelry because the metal can affect the bone density reading. Also, clothes with zippers, underwire bras, piercing jewelry and any clothing with metal should be removed before you have the scan.

I just had a contrast CT scan; can I have a DXA after exposure to radioactive dye?

If you've already had a CT you should wait 7 days before having a DXA scan. You should try to have your bone density test before you have oral, rectal or IV contrast dye; but if you can't do that, waiting a week is the recommendation.

If I have an artificial hip or spinal hardware can you scan that area?

If you have metal at these sites, a wrist (radius) or heel scan can be done instead.

Can I eat before the scan?

Yes, you can eat your normal meal. A full stomach doesn't have an affect on bone density scans.

Can I take my medications before the DXA scan?

Yes, take your medications as you normally would before your DXA scan.

Understanding Your T-score

Normal Bone: Any score above -1.0

Low Bone Density (osteopenia): Any score between -1.0 and -2.5

Osteoporosis: Any score below -2.5

Sources:

International Society of Clinical Densitometry 2012 Patient Resources http://www.iscd.org/

National Osteoporosis Foundation 2012 Having a Bone Density Test http://www.nof.org/aboutosteoporosis/detectingosteoporosis/bmdtest