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What risks are there to a DEXA bone scan?

A:

Quick Answer

The risks of a DEXA bone scan include potential inaccuracy, identification problems and the possibility that the scan may not be covered by insurance, according to the Mayo Clinic. The procedure is painless and similar to an x-ray, explains WebMD.

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Full Answer

The DEXA scan uses low-energy radiation to determine the patient's bone density, according to WebMD. Pregnant women should not have bone density scans due to the output of radiation, which is harmful to the fetus.

Some DEXA scans are more accurate than others, depending on the sites that are measured. Measuring the spine and the hip bones proves to be more accurate than the measurements of the forearm or heel bones, reports the Mayo Clinic. However, the bone density test is unable to determine the exact cause of the problem, so further testing is needed.

Patients are advised to speak with insurance companies prior to the procedure in order to verify coverage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Typically, scans for those at risk of osteoporosis, or those previously diagnosed with osteoporosis, are covered by most insurance companies, explains WebMD.

The purpose of the DEXA scan is to evaluate one's bone density, which may lead to the diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia. After the procedure, T-scores and Z-scores are given, resulting in a potential diagnosis. Those with a T-score higher than -1 have normal bone density, whereas those with a score lower than -1 are at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia, WebMD reports.

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