COVID-19 Updates: Latest Information for Parents

Radiology

Bone Densitometry (DEXA) 

DEXA photo

What is a DEXA scan?

DXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and is a special X-ray scan that determines the strength of bones. Doctors use this test to help prevent fractures.

Why is a DEXA scan ordered for evaluating bone density?

DXA is currently the most accurate method and uses the lowest amount of radiation for a pediatric bone scan. It is safe, low in cost and precise.

Quick Facts:

  • An X-ray is a way to see the inside of your child’s body.
  • DEXA is a special scan to determine the health and strength of your child’s bones.
  • Your child will be awake throughout this exam.
  • The exam lasts about 15-20 minutes.
  • Your child can partake in normal activities and diet afterward.
  • IF YOUR CHILD HAS ANY MUSCULAR CONSTRICTIONS OR ANY CONDITIONS AFFECTING MUSCLE TONE (CEREBRAL PALSY FOR EXAMPLE), PLEASE CALL THE RADIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT 858-966-5861 TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD CAN COMPLETE THIS EXAM.

What should I/my child expect during the exam?

  • DEXA scans vary in time depending on the part of the body in which the X-ray is done. (Also how well your child can stay still.)
  • DEXA scans are generally quick.
  • X-rays are not painful in any way.
  • The goal of the exam is to take X-ray pictures of your child’s bones. Pictures will vary depending on the type of X-ray ordered for your child.
  • The exam is most often performed on the spine, hip and the entire body. It is a painless, non-invasive procedure – there are no injections or medications involved.
  • Your child may be asked to remove any clothing with zippers, buttons or jewelry they might have on and possibly change into a hospital gown.
  • Your child will lie on a padded table and the X-ray detector, or camera, will move over them during the exam to get the pictures.
  • The scanner is an open unit and parents may (wearing a protective apron) stay near the table during the exam.
  • The camera can sometimes be intimidating for children. The camera is big but will never touch them.
  • Your child will need to hold completely still for pictures to be taken.
  • After the pictures are taken the exam is complete.

What is my role as a parent/guardian during the exam? 

  • Parents and guardians are welcome to be present during exam to support their child.

Due to use of radiation, women who believe there is a possibility they may be pregnant or are pregnant will not be allowed in room while X-ray is being used. These women may be with their child during times when radiation will not be used.

  • The technologist will instruct parents/guardians on where to sit/stand while in the room to help the exam run smoothly.
  • Parents/guardians are encouraged to help their child relax and keep calm during the exam.
  • Parents/guardians are also a great help when encouraging the child to hold still during pictures.

Why was the DEXA scan ordered?

A DEXA scan may be ordered if your child:

Has a recurrent or low trauma fracture

  • Has chronic inflammatory disease
  • Has hypogonadism
  • Is immobilized
  • Has a blood disorder
  • Is on long-term systemic glucocorticoid therapy
  • Has osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Needs to monitor treatment

Does the DEXA scan use a lot of radiation?

We understand the concern of radiation exposure to children. Your child will be exposed to a small amount of radiation. The dose of radiation for a DEXA is customized to your child’s age, weight and the area to be scanned.

Your technologist for the exam will explain the exam in detail, so please feel free to ask questions if needed. We as a hospital team are here to support both you and your child throughout your experience.