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A DEXA scan is a type of X-ray that measures bone mineral density (BMD). A DEXA scan provides information about your child’s bone strength or fragility and the risk of fractures or broken bones.
Your child may be referred for a DEXA scan if they have:
Your child may be asked to change into a hospital gown before the DEXA exam. If they would prefer not to wear the hospital gown, wearing a plain T-shirt and shorts or leggings may be OK. Articles of clothing may have to be removed if they contain decoration, metal, glitter, thick elastic, string ties or plastic that may show up on the DEXA images and make important body structures difficult to see. We have a ceiling hoist for patients who require a hoist for transfer from their wheelchair to the DEXA bed. Your child’s height and weight will be recorded.
For all examinations, a family member or carer is encouraged to stay with your child to help them feel comfortable about the procedure and to help them to remain still.
The time it takes to perform the DEXA examination depends on how many areas are required to scan, (usually lumbar spine, right hip and whole body), but it may be as long as 30 minutes:
A report will be prepared by an Endocrinologist and sent to the referring doctor. The report is usually available within a week but can be received earlier if required. If you have any questions about why your child needs a DEXA, or questions about the results of your DEXA, please speak to your doctor.
To get some ideas of how to talk to your child about the scan before you come to hospital, see our fact
sheet. Also consider showing your child our
‘Be Positive’ videos of children having procedures at The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH). Seeing the videos may help them by knowing what to expect. You can also download our
Okee in Medical Imaging app, which includes games and information especially designed to help children feel more comfortable about having medical imaging at RCH.
All medical imaging procedures at RCH have been justified by a Radiologist or Specialist before the exam is performed. All imaging procedures are optimised – each study is performed with the aim to provide the highest quality imaging with the lowest radiation dose to each child.
For more information on radiation, please see the Australian Government fact sheet:
Ionising Radiation and Health, or speak to your DEXA technologist.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Medical Imaging department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed November 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit