Bone density scans

What is a bone density scan?

A standard bone density scan uses low dose x-rays to analyse bone and measure bone mineral density. This helps your doctor evaluate your child’s bone health and ensures their treatment program can be optimised.

PCH has two bone density scanners, one DEXA and one Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (PQCT). The main difference is the DEXA produces two dimensional images and the PQCT produces three dimensional images.

Our bone density room

Our Bone Density room is equipped with digital technology to distract, entertain and optimise patient comfort and allow us to deliver a high quality imaging service. Both bone density units are housed in the one room for convenience as most children will have both DEXA and PQCT as the exams complement each other.

How are the images taken?

Your child should not wear jewellery or clothes with metal buttons or zips. A gown will be provided if your child needs to change into one.

Your child will have to lay on a bed for the DEXA and sit in a chair for the PQCT. The position they will need to be in depends on what part of the body is being scanned.

The most important thing for patients to remember is to keep very still during scans. Any movement while the images are being taken will cause blurriness and the pictures will need to be taken again.

How long will it take?

The length of the scan depends on how many images are required. Generally it takes between one and four minutes to obtain each image. The average examination time for both DEXA and PQCT is about an hour.

When will I find out the results?

Your child’s results will be provided to your referring doctor to explain to you after the radiologist has written a report, which will take about a week.

What happens after the test?

The MIT will let you know when your child can leave. After the test, your child can eat and drink normally unless your child’s referring doctor has told you otherwise.

How should I prepare my child?

Most bone density examinations do not require any preparation. Articles of clothing may have to be removed if there is potential for them to interfere with the diagnostic image. The radiographer will be able to advise whether the clothing is suitable or whether it needs to be removed.

If your child has had a contrast fluoroscopy examination or a nuclear medicine scan in the two weeks before their examination, please contact the imaging department.

Your child should not have calcium supplements within 24 hours of the test.

Toddlers and preschool aged children

  • Explain the test to your child just before their appointment as they may become anxious if they are told about it too far in advance.
  • On the day of the test, let your child know they will be having some pictures taken and tell them that you will stay with them during the test.
  • Bring their favourite toy or book and a snack for after their test.

School aged children

  • Explain to your child in simple language that they are going to hospital to have some pictures taken of their body and that you will stay with them during the test.