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Bone Densitometry

DEXA Scan 

Department Hours: 
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - 8:00 am - 4:00 pm 

All DEXA scans are scheduled through our central scheduling line at 207-777-4049.


Osteoporosis is a thinning and weakening of the bones that increases the chance of fractures. People with osteoporosis most commonly fracture their hips or spine. Loss of natural estrogen in menopausal women is the most common cause of osteoporosis. Other risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis, early menopause, smoking, thin, small or slender body build, liver disease, long-term use of cortico-steroids, anti-seizure medication, thyroid hormones, and some birth contol medications.

Osteoporosis can be detected by a simple type of procedure called dual energy absorptiometry (DEXA), also known simply as “bone densitometry.” A bone densitometry test consists of two separate scans; one of the hip, and one of the spine. The entire procedure takes approximately 20 minutes.  The actual scan time for each body area is only 10 seconds.  This simple procedure can measure the calcium content of the bones and give an indication of how a person’s bone thickness compares with that of other people of similar age and gender. A physician may recommend treatment if the bones are thin or if there is evidence of rapid bone loss on follow-up comparative scans.  

In February 2009, a Hologic Discovery C unit was installed.  Previous scans done at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center can be compared with scans done on this new unit.  Your physician will get a report comparing the values of both scans so that any changes in bone health will be part of your report.

Dexa Scan/Patient Preparation

Please do not take your calcium supplement within 24 hours of your DEXA scan.  Do not take antacid tablets (like Tums) or antacid liquid 24 hours before your DEXA Scan.  Please wear comfortable clothing that does not have metal, buttons, or buckles over the abdomen, pelvis, and hip regions.  A padded table is used for the exam so that one can rest comfortably during the test.

Inform your physician if you recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a computed tomography (CT) scan or radioisotope scan.  You may have to wait 10 to 14 days before undergoing a Bone Densitometry test.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q- Will it be painful? 
A- Not at all. There is no pain associated with a bone density test. There is no medication
or anything given for this test.

Q- How long will it take? 
A- Approximately, 20 minutes for the examination.  But the actual scan time is only 90 seconds.

Q- Is the exam safe?
A- Bone Densitometry uses an extremely small dose of radiation.

In the case of pregnancy, patients should notify their physician before having any exam that uses x-rays for imaging purposes.

More Information

Bone Density Scan (Excellent information for patients from the American College of Radiology.)

St. Mary's Health System • 93 Campus Avenue • Lewiston, ME 04240