Are DEXA Scans Safe?

Put simply, DEXA scans are safe. The most prominent exception: women who are pregnant.

They’re also effective. There’s no question a DEXA body composition (comp) scan does a remarkable job quantifying key health indicators such as bone density and visceral fat percentages.

Any technology that utilizes X-ray technology, however, invites questions of safety. To help address any such questions you have, we’re happy to provide this FAQ.

How is radiation exposure measured?
From a health and safety perspective, the radiation exposure unit of measurement is called a “sievert.”

How many sieverts of radiation does a DEXA scan provide?
Depending on your size, a DEXA body comp scan delivers 1-4 uSv. That “uSu” stands for 1,000,000 microsieverts — a relatively minuscule amount of radiation.

To put that in perspective, the average person receives about 8 uSv of radiation by merely walking around. That radiation is coming from cosmic rays, the Earth’s crust, and other sources.

Is it okay to get more than one DEXA body comp scan done per year?
Yes. In fact, 3-4 DEXA body comp scans are safe. A round trip cross-country flight exposes you to much more radiation: 40 uSv.

What is considered the acceptable limit of radiation scans in a year?
If you require multiple medical examinations, the acceptable limit is 20 mSv per year. Note that’s “mSv,” which stands for 1000 millisieverts — not as much as a standard Sievert but magnitudes higher than a single DEXA scan range of 1-4 uSv.

Striking the right balance

It’s also important to consider the risks associated with not getting a DEXA scan.

Failing to discern dangerous bone density levels can pave the way to osteoporosis. Overlooking visceral fat percentages may lead to metabolic syndrome. And a delayed response to sarcopenia — the so-called state of “skinny fat” where the loss of musculature as one grows older is paired with the presence of excessive weight — can impair cognitive function.

If the trade-off between staggering physical ailments and improved health and wellness is one-tenth of a cross-country flight’s worth of radiation, that’s likely not a bad deal.

No better time than now

Consult with your physician to address this and any other health concerns you have, of course. And when you hear that DEXA body comp scans are safe, find a provider today and schedule an appointment. Better health awaits.

For any additional questions you have about DEXA machines, please feel free to contact DEXA+ today!