A DEXA scan, also called a DXA scan or bone density test, is an imaging test that measures bone mineral density or bone strength. It helps doctors assess your risk for fractures and diagnose osteoporosis, osteopenia and other bone diseases.

Doctors use DEXA scans (which stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) to evaluate your bone health. You may need a bone density test if you are:

  • Female 65 and older
  • Post-menopausal female with prior fracture or risk factors
  • Male 70 and older
  • Male <70 with prior fracture or risk factors

Bone density tests give doctors information they need to make the best possible care decisions. Results can help:

  • Identify your risk for bone fractures
  • Diagnose bone disease
  • Assess bone loss over time

Tell how well a treatment is working

Expertise in bone density tests for adults and children in central Missouri

Advanced equipment and expertise are critical for the getting most accurate results from imaging tests.

MU Health offers the latest technologies that allow us to detect even the smallest changes in bone mineral density. We provide a level of care you can only get from a leading academic medical center.

Our team includes radiologists who specialize in bone problems. We work closely with bone health specialists who care for the full range of bone diseases. We also offer pediatric bone density tests for children 5 years old and older.

Your health is important to us. That’s why we work quickly to get your doctor the results needed to guide your care plan.

Convenience and online DEXA scan scheduling

Getting a bone density test is easy at MU Health Care. We offer DEXA scans at two locations: Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. Please note, it is important to have DEXA scans consistently on the same scanner. If you have one scan at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, please schedule future scans at the same location.

You can make your appointment any time. You will require a referral from your provider to book.

For Ellis Fischel Cancer Center appointments, please call (573) 882-9249.

For Missouri Orthopaedic Institute appointments, please call (573) 882-2663.

What can DEXA scans show?

DEXA scans look at minerals in your bones. Bone minerals are what give bones strength. Generally, the higher the bone minerals, the denser — and stronger — the bone.

Doctors use bone density tests to diagnose weak bones and certain diseases that affect your bones like osteoporosis and osteopenia.

What is osteopenia?

Osteopenia is low bone mineral density. People with low bone mineral density have an increased risk for bone fractures and this can progress to osteoporosis.  

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become porous, weak and more susceptible to fracture. It happens when bone loss occurs at a rate that’s faster than new bone can replace it. 

 While both men and women can have osteoporosis, it’s more common in women after menopause. The risk is also higher for those with a family history of osteoporosis, tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and chronic steroid use. There are several other medical conditions and medications that increase your risk of bone loss leading to osteoporosis such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, antidepressant medications, and proton pump inhibitors.

Risk factors for osteopenia and osteoporosis

Certain factors increase your risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis, including:

  • Gender
  • Thin or petite frame
  • Family history of bone loss
  • Diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use

Medications like steroids, hormone therapy for cancer and anti-seizure medicines

What to expect during your DEXA scan

A DEXA scan is painless. It’s noninvasive and it only takes a few minutes.

The MU Health Care imaging team will answer your questions and help you feel comfortable throughout the test. 

Here’s what you can expect:

  • You will lie down on a special table.
  • A scanning arm will pass over your body without touching you.
  • The scanner measures the quantity of bone you have.
  • A computer generates results, one of which is called a T-score.

Your T-score is a number that indicates your bone mass:

  • Between 0 and -1: normal bone mass
  • Between -1 and -2.49: low bone mass or osteopenia
  • Below -2.50: osteoporosis

Our radiologists will send the results to your referring doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will let you know the results and recommend treatment, if needed.

You can see your DEXA scan results online using our patient portal about seven days after your appointment.