What is a Dexa Scan?

A Dexa scan, or a bone density scan, is a special test that measures how much calcium is in your child’s bones. Calcium is a mineral that helps bones stay strong. Without it, bones can become weaker, thinner, and more likely to break.  

How to Prepare for a Dexa Scan

You will be given specific instructions prior to your child’s appointment, but here are a few tips to help prepare for the exam and answers to commonly asked questions:

  • Take time to talk to your child and explain the test. Reassure them they’ll be safe and comfortable.
    • For preschoolers, it’s best to discuss the day of the scan.
    • For school-aged children, it’s best to discuss two to three days before
    • For adolescents, it's best to discuss one to two weeks before.
  • Bring a comfort item, such as a stuffed animal, toy, or blanket to use during waiting times or in the imaging room.
  • Dress your child in comfortable clothing (no zippers, belts, or metal buttons).

Your child can eat and drink normally. However, oral calcium supplements should be stopped 72 hours (about three days) prior to the exam. Also, barium studies should be more than seven days prior and nuclear medicine studies should be at least 14 days (about two weeks) prior. There is no contrast used for this exam.

Yes, your child can take their regular medication before a Dexa scan, but oral calcium supplements should be stopped 72 hours (about three days) prior to the exam.

One parent or guardian may be in the room during the exam, but no siblings or other family members are allowed.

  • Look: The Dexa device is a blue table that moves with an arm that goes over the top of it. The arm will go back and forth over your child.
  • Sound: During the exam, the machine makes a light buzzing noise and the table makes a clicking noise as it lowers.
  • Feel: The table is padded. The table will move forward and back and up and down during the exam. It doesn't hurt and nothing touches your child.

What to Expect During the Dexa Scan

After you’re checked in, you and your child will be invited into the testing room by a trained technician where they will check your child’s height and weight. Depending on what your child is wearing, and the type of test required, your child may be given a hospital gown to wear.

Your child will be asked to lie flat on a padded table and must hold very still during the test. The exam takes about 10 minutes or less once your child has changed.