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How do you get a DEXA scan?

(19 Posts)
Erebus Fri 07-Jun-13 11:09:26

What sort of things prompts a Dr to order one for you?

I have been frankly shocked by the number of my contemporaries (45-55) who have had one recently for a variety of reasons and who have had poor results! Low bone mineral density!

2, I know, are as a result of adolescent anorexia, but the others...?! So I am thinking I would very much like to know what my risk is!

But I'm not sure if I can get one on the NHS just because I would like one...

CMOTDibbler Fri 07-Jun-13 11:57:40

Talk to your gp about your risk factors for osteoporosis/osteopenia. If you and they think its necessary they will refer you, or you could pay for one at a private hospital

Erebus Fri 07-Jun-13 12:05:31

TBH I don't think I'd qualify for an NHS one so maybe I need to go private, though of course, in many ways, at 50, I've missed the boat in order to do anything about it!

ipswichwitch Fri 07-Jun-13 12:16:51

there is quite a list of risk factors for osteoporosis - certain conditions such as rheumatiod arthritis, gastric problems (malabsorption, coeliac disease, imflammatory bowel disease), early menopause, thyroid problems, hypogonadism, liver disease. Also, if you're taking certain medications, or if you have had a low trauma fracture you should be sent for a DEXA scan. I have seen people who have a strong family history getting referred.

If they do a scan and find osteopenia/osteoporosis, you would either be prescribed medication or given dietary advice, and you should have a rescan after 2/3 years to see if that is effective. I certainly wouldn't worry about it being too late at 50 - I see patients who are much older, who are treated and then show improvement at the next scan.

Discuss it with your GP, but bear in mind that the people you know will have had some risk factor in order to justify the exposure to X-ray that you may not know about (this is why I don't necessarily agree with being able to just pay and have private scans done for no real good reason, as it's a procedure involving radiation after all, but I digress!!)

ipswichwitch Fri 07-Jun-13 12:17:53

hope all that waffle helped!

I seem to be having early menopause symptoms, and there is a history of osteoporosis on both sides of my family, so I've been referred for one in July (I'm 43).

My DM is 69 and is on meds for osteoporosis so there CAN be treatments way beyond your age, OP. (she's never had a broken bone btw - they just caught the disease through reg DEXA scans)

Erebus Fri 07-Jun-13 12:29:30

Of your list, ipswich, maybe just liver disease as I drink like a fish! No, actually, I don't, not quite like a fish grin, and no, I don't have liver disease afaik...

I think a DEXA scan give you a dose of about a 1/10 of that of a chest xray? Is that right? I ought to bloody well know, I am a radiographer but I do MRI. I could get a 'sneaky' DEXA but I'd rather get one for a reasonable reason!

ipswichwitch Fri 07-Jun-13 12:42:18

well, alcohol intake of more than 3 units a day would also be a reason to refer grin
you're right the dose is pretty low compared to chest x-ray, i have a bit of a bee in my bonnet regarding exposure, and frankly it horrifies me that in america you can just rock up to a clinic, pay and get a ct and nobody monitors your exposure.
i would have a word with the gp - I have seen requests approved for little more reason that for patient reassurance, so that in itself is worth something

ipswichwitch Fri 07-Jun-13 12:43:11

smoking, diabetes and steroid use are also risk factors. My brain is finally getting into gear!!!

digerd Fri 07-Jun-13 12:58:26

That is interesting about steroids may thin bones in some people. I did ask my GP for a the lowest dose possible of Anabolic steroids as my muscles have wasted with age < I knew he'd say NO, but no harm in asking!>. He did say they could thin my bones and am already supposedly near the bottom of the scale after having the heel measurement test. A blood test just 2 years ago showed too little calcium.
So am now on calcium+vitD supplements.

My DD did have a DEXA scan measured on the hip bones due to perimenopause and is now also on the same pills.

She does have private insurance paid by her employer.

Erebus Fri 07-Jun-13 13:02:27

Yes, ipswich- I am amazed that CT 'life scans' got past the RPA in the UK, tbh!

If I have reason to see my GP I might just ask. It wouldn't have occurred to me except for the number of women my age who have had one for any number of reasons- and whose results came back as low!

RockinD Fri 07-Jun-13 18:04:07

I was told I ought to have one because I was 'at that age', so I went and had one. I didn't realise they were rationed.

BestIsWest Sat 08-Jun-13 00:16:38

I had one at 48 due to breaking an unusual number of bones in one go. It showed I was Osteopenic and after further tests they found I had primary hyperparathyoridism. So there's another reason.

digerd Sat 08-Jun-13 07:28:48

Best
What type of test diagnosed your Hyperparathyroidism? And did you have any symptoms? < I had an overactive thyroid gland in my 20s>

DD was also diagnosed with Osteopenia after her Dexa scan.

BestIsWest Sat 08-Jun-13 20:32:37

Hi Digerd. After the DEXA scan I had a routine set of blood tests that showed my calcium was high, then a referral to a Orthopaedic Surgeon wo did more bllod tests and found my PTH (Parathyroid Hormone) was sky high. Put together this indicates Primary Hyperparathyroidism and I'm waiting for an op to correct it.

Loads of symptoms, the main ones for me are leg pains (joint and muscle) indigestion, headaches, weight gain, itching.

digerd Sun 09-Jun-13 17:56:39

Best
Thanks for replying. I had heard of it but is rare compared with Hyperthyroidism which I had.
I had my Thyroid reduced in size as was very swollen to stop it being hyper, which did work.

Good luck with the op.

BasketzatDawn Sun 09-Jun-13 18:09:34

At 50 you have not reached the stage where you can do nothing about it. there is lots you can do re diet and exercise and supps, if you find you have low bone density. Obvs better to prevent, but never too late to sort.

Erebus Mon 10-Jun-13 20:41:49

I honestly thought you did the vast majority of the 'useful' calcium laying down in your teens, tbh! Which is why, among the people I know who've come in as 'low', 2 were definitely by their own admission, borderline (and actual) anorexics as teenagers.

BasketzatDawn Mon 10-Jun-13 20:47:03

erebus, yes, I think it's true to a point about laying it down early. BUT you need to get it detected and dealt with as an 'older' winkperson . Being careful with diet, alcohol intake, exercise, etc can stop it getting worse too (and help in lots of other was too, allegedly!)

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