It has long been one of the quickest, easiest and most precise medical tests around. And now it is even quicker, easier and more precise at St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center.
The new dexa scan is the top-of-the-line machine for measuring bone density, said St. Rose’s Shannon Deines, who is one of only about 20 people in Kansas registered in bone densitometry. (Dexa stands for "dual energy X-ray absorptiometry.")
"Like the previous machine, our new one scans the hip, spine and forearm," Deines said. "But this upgraded version can scan each area in about 11 seconds rather than six minutes. It takes longer to answer a few medical-history questions than it does to take the test."
One new feature is an IVA, or Instant Vertebral Analysis. This is a lateral scan of the entire spine to assess bone deformities, such as compression fractures.
"If the patient is at high risk for compression fractures, this scan may be done along with the basic dexa test to help us see the deformities," Deines explained.
The high-risk factors are significant height loss, a previous compression fracture or severe osteoporosis.
Body composition assessment is another new feature. It is used to estimate the lean body mass and fat mass of tissues. "This machine will print out a color image to display the distribution of fat, lean tissue and bone," Deines commented. "It will give you a percentage of total body fat."
A third new feature is the FRAX assessment that calculates a fracture probability. It was developed by the World Health Organization to help health-care providers proactively treat patients with a high risk of bone fractures.
"Risk factors are entered into the FRAX program," Deines said. "Those factors, along with the patient’s bone-density numbers are used to calculate the 10-year probability of fractures.
"The physicians will still receive a dexa report," Deines continued. "But all images are now stored on a computer system in radiology. We can print them out or burn them onto a disc — whatever the patient and doctor want."
The dexa emits much less radiation than X-rays or CT scans, which don’t provide bone-density readings. The patient needs a doctor’s referral and the test is usually covered by insurance. The bone-density exam is non-invasive and painless, and the patient doesn’t even need to undress.
"We just need a few minutes to give the patient important information about their bone density," Deines said. "It is recommended for post-menopausal women, and women and men whose bone density may be negatively affected by medications such as steroids."
Linda Farthing, St. Rose vice president, noted that the new dexa scan is just one example of how the health-care facility is growing. Two others are Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and the Sleep/Wake Disorders Center.
"And there is more to come," Farthing said. "St. Rose continues to be progressive as we provide new equipment and services for patients and their families. In addition, we are always here for outpatient surgeries, and our emergency-medicine physicians staff our comprehensive urgent care center 24 hours a day."