Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA)

What is a DXA scan?

A DXA scan is an imaging test that measures bone mineral density. Calcium and phosphorus are the minerals that make bones strong.  Bone mineral density is a good indicator of your child’s health. Children with certain health conditions are at risk for low bone density. The results from the scan help your healthcare team learn if your child is at risk for fractures. The test also shows how much of your child’s body is made from bone, muscle and fat.

What happens during the scan?

Depending on your child’s needs, this test may involve taking an image of their spine and whole body or one specific part.

Your child will be awake during the scan. No sedation is needed. The DXA machine looks like a box with a large, open table on top. Your child will lie on the table. There is a bar, about three feet above the table, which is attached to the machine. This bar moves back and forth above your child. They must lie still on the table for 3 to 4 minutes while the bar moves for each picture. Caregiver(s) may stay with the child during the scan.

Is this scan painful?

The scan is painless, and no needles are involved.

How long does the scan last?

It takes about 15 minutes.

Is there any preparation for the scan?

  • The scan is performed in the Nutrition and Growth Lab on the 2nd floor of the Seashore House. Allow an extra 15 minutes to register on the 3rd floor of the Main Building.
  • Do not give your child any calcium supplements on the day of the DXA scan. Your child may drink milk or eat foods that contain calcium.
  • Your child should not wear clothing with metal, snaps or zippers.
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, metal hairclips, piercings or wire-lined bras.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if:
    • Your child had a nuclear medicine scan, barium study or computed tomography (CT) or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan with contrast done within 7 days of the DXA scan.
    • Your child cannot hold still for 3 to 4 minutes.
    • Your child has any type of surgical or other hardware in their body. Examples include spinal rods, orthopedic screws or plates, a G tube or other devices.
    • Your child weighs over 600 pounds.
  • Check with your insurance company if a referral or a script is needed. The procedure code for a DXA scan is 76075.

Is there any radiation exposure?

The x-ray exposure is less radiation than a cross-country airplane trip or in two hours of sunshine. This scan should not be done if your child is pregnant.

What happens after the scan?

Your child can return to normal activities. The results of the scan will be sent to your healthcare provider in about a week. Your child may need follow up scans in the future.

Why perform this scan at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)?

Over 500 DXA scans are done each year at CHOP. Our specialized healthcare providers are trained to work with children. This ensures a high-quality scan in minimal time.  The Center for Bone Health uses the latest resources and data to interpret the DXA scan results and calculate your child’s bone density. They will make recommendations if your child needs further studies or medical care.

How do I schedule a DXA scan?

To schedule a DXA scan, call 215-590-3326.

Center for Bone Health

Email: bonehealthcenter@chop.edu