How to Prepare for a Bone Scan

How to Prepare for a Bone Scan

A DEXA scan is a high-precision type of bone X-ray that measures your bone mineral density and bone loss. If your bone density is lower than normal for your age, it indicates a risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

What is a bone scan?

DEXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. This bone scan is done to reveal problems with bone metabolism. Bone metabolism refers to the process in which bones break down and rebuild themselves. New bone formation is part of the healing process when bones are injured or broken. A bone scan is a good way to view and document abnormal metabolic activity in the bones. DEXA scans are most commonly ordered for women over 65 and men over 70. The World Health Organization (WHO) established DEXA as the best technique for assessing bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. 

Preparation for a Bone Scan

A bone scan requires no special preparation. You don’t need to restrict your diet or avoid particular activities in preparation for a bone scan. However, it is important to tell your doctor if you are or may be pregnant or breastfeeding. Since bone scans are X-rays that use radiation, this may present harm to your pregnancy. Tracers used during the scan run the risk of contaminating breast milk. Let your doctor know if you’ve taken any medicine containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol, or if you’ve had an X-ray or CT test using barium contrast material within the past four days. Barium and bismuth can interfere with bone scan results.

Before the scan, your doctor will ask you to take off jewelry with metal, including body piercings. Some patients may receive a mild sedative to help with nerves and to remain as still as possible. 

How long does a bone scan take?

The actual DEXA screening procedure takes about an hour. During the scan, you will lie on the flat padded table inside the DEXA scanner. A movable arm above holds the X-ray detector which will scan you over the area(s) selected. A device that produces X-rays is below the table.

Your technician may place a wedge under your knees to help flatten your spine for the image, or to position your hip. They may also position your arm for scanning. 

It is important to hold very still while the imaging arm above slowly moves across your body. The X-ray radiation level is low enough to allow the technician to remain in the room with you while operating the device for additional supervision. 

The scan itself should only take a few minutes. 

How much does a bone scan cost?

The cost of a DEXA scan varies, based on where you live and the type of facility performing the test.

As with MRIs and CT scans, insurance companies usually cover all or part of the cost if your doctor has ordered the scan as medically necessary. With insurance, you may have a copay. 

The American Board of Internal Medicine estimates $125 as the baseline out-of-pocket charge with insurance. Some facilities may charge considerably more, not to mention the added expenses of deductibles. It’s best to check with your healthcare provider, and if possible, shop around. 

If you choose to skip insurance and pay out of pocket for your bone scan, the market rate for a DEXA scan costs around $425. Medmo’s rate for a self-pay DEXA scan is $325.

To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.

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