A DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) Scan measures bone, fat, and muscle in your body.
Doctors order DEXA Scans for their patients to monitor bone density, particularly in the elderly. Low bone density tells a doctor that the patient is at risk of suffering bone fractures and that they may benefit from changes in diet and exercise.
People interested in their own health order a DEXA Scan to get the most precise measure of their fat and muscle, and to see where it is distributed in their body. Using a DEXA Scan lets a person see where they stand and chart their progress.
A DEXA (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) Scan bounces two different types of rays off your body and then measures the amount of rays that bounce back. The rays are absorbed differently by your body's bone, fat, and muscle, allowing the scanner to measure your body composition.
The patients lies down in the bed of the DEXA Scan. The scanner arm passes slowly over you taking measurements. The scan takes about 5 minutes. Results are available immediately.
DEXA technology was introduced in the 1980s and quickly became the gold standard for measuring body composition.
Body composition assessment for sport
Fat Loss and Muscle bulking
Overweight and/or obesity
Other Uses Include:
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol, triglycerides and/or lipoproteins)
Assessment of metabolic risk profile
Diabetes (Pre Diabetes, Type 1 or 2)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Cancer and cancer cachexia
Eating disorder and low body weight
Bariatric (weight loss), Gastrectomy or Intestinal Bypass Surgery
Muscle asymmetry or muscle wasting post-injury or surgery
Sarcopenia and Muscular Dystrophy
Monitoring of Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-S) or reduced Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).
Wear something comfortable without metal to your DEXA Scan. Zippers, underwire bras, and belt buckles will need to be removed to avoid interfering with scan results.
Avoid taking any calcium supplements in the 24 hours prior to your exam.
The average price of a DEXA Scan for body composition is around $80 as of 2017. Some clinics will provide a discount for followup visits. Use our DEXA Scan locator to find DEXA Scan costs in your area. It is almost always a cash pay test, not covered by insurance.
The cash price for a DEXA Scan for bone density averages around $200. Prices vary considerably based on insurance and deductible. Generally prices are considerably cheaper in out-patient diagnostic facilities than hospital based facilities. Bone density scans prescribed by your doctor are almost always covered by insurance.
Show your clients their progress. Even when they aren't dropping pounds on the scale, they're gaining muscle and losing fat.
Optimize training. When workouts are too challenging, they can damage muscle tissue. When workouts are too easy, results are slow and motivation can run low.
Find muscle imbalances. Prevent injury by finding weaknesses early.
DEXA uses a very weak type of wave. The radiation dose is just one-tenth the amount in a regular chest x-ray. It is approximately equal to the amount of natural radiation your would experience in a day.
For routine tracking of body composition, we recommend getting a scan once a year. If you are attempting to make aggressive changes in your body composition, such as a new diet or a new exercise program then you might want to get more frequent scans such as once every 3 - 6 months
For tracking bone density (osteoperosis screening), the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends routine screening for all women over-65. The test is also recommended for women under-65 with additional risk factors. The scan is typically repeated every two years.
Unlike an MRI or a CT scan, you will not have to lie in a closed off tunnel. You'll lie on an open table as a wand hovers over your body. The machine is quick and will not make loud noises.
If you are pregnant, you should not get a scan. However, if you are breastfeeding it's perfectly safe.
Under 18 years of age
DEXA scan within the past 8 weeks
A total of 4 DEXA scans in the past year
Unable to maintain a motionless position for 7 minutes whilst being scanned
Determine pre- and post-workout fuel mixtures based on your body fat and lean tissue percentages
Establish baseline measurements to monitor your strength, conditioning and nutrition program effectiveness
Evaluate whether your body composition is appropriate for your sport, position, health, and goals
Track your body composition levels throughout rehabilitation of a severe injury to ensure you’re not losing too much muscle or gaining too much fat
Discover irregularities in food behaviour
Estimate your bone mineral content in specific areas, so you can track rates of bone loss and determine future fracture risks
Identify muscle imbalances that can lead to injury