Does a DEXA Scan Show Arthritis?

By |

In the search for accurate diagnostic tools in rheumatology, the DEXA scan stands out. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) can be helpful when trying to understand arthritis diagnosis and management.


Did you know that arthritis affects over 50 million adults in the United States alone, making it one of the leading causes of disability? With such a high prevalence, the need for precise diagnostic tools is undeniable.

This brings us to the DEXA scan, a tool renowned not just for its role in osteoporosis detection but also for its potential in arthritis management. This blog explores the DEXA scan’s ability to detect arthritis, offering insight into what to expect during the scan and how it fits into the broader context of arthritis care.

dexa scan machine

Understanding DEXA Scans

Before diving into the specifics of arthritis detection, it’s crucial to understand what a DEXA scan entails. DEXA, or Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, is a gold standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD). By using low-dose X-rays, it provides valuable data on bone health, which is instrumental in diagnosing conditions like osteoporosis.

bone density visual

The Procedure

A DEXA scan is a quick, painless procedure typically completed within 10 to 20 minutes. It involves lying on a table while a machine passes over your body, emitting a dual X-ray beam. One beam is absorbed by soft tissue and the other by bone, allowing for precise measurements of bone density.

Role in Arthritis Detection

While DEXA scans are primarily used for assessing bone density, they indirectly offer insights into arthritis. By evaluating areas of bone loss or damage, healthcare providers can infer the presence of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can lead to bone density changes. However, it’s important to note that DEXA scans do not directly visualize joint inflammation or cartilage, which are the main signs of arthritis.

Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Cost

The cost of a DEXA scan can vary widely depending on geographic location, facility, and whether insurance covers part of the expense. On average, the price ranges from $100 to $300. It’s advisable to check with your insurance provider and healthcare facility beforehand to understand the anticipated costs fully.

While a DEXA scan does not directly show arthritis, it plays a crucial role in the broader diagnostic process, especially for conditions like osteoporosis, which can coexist with arthritis. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of DEXA scans is vital for anyone looking to manage or diagnose arthritis effectively. Always consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best diagnostic tools for your specific situation.

Incorporating a DEXA scan into the management plan for arthritis can provide a comprehensive view of bone health, contributing to more informed treatment decisions and better patient outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions About DEXA Scans

Q: Can a DEXA scan diagnose all types of arthritis?

A: No, DEXA scans are primarily used to measure bone density and can suggest the presence of certain types of arthritis through indirect signs like bone loss. Direct diagnosis of arthritis types, especially those involving soft tissue and cartilage, requires other imaging modalities.

Q: How often should one undergo a DEXA scan?

A: The frequency of DEXA scans depends on individual risk factors, existing conditions, and healthcare provider recommendations. Typically, every 2-3 years is common for monitoring bone density.

Q: Is there any preparation required for a DEXA scan?

A: Preparation is minimal. It’s usually recommended to wear comfortable clothing without metal fasteners and to avoid calcium supplements 24 hours before the scan.

Q: How long does it take to get DEXA scan results?

A: Results are often available within a few days to a week, depending on the facility. The results will be reviewed by your healthcare provider, who will discuss them with you.

Our Arthritis Consultants are Your Partner in Health

At St. Paul Rheumatology, we’re more than just your healthcare provider—we’re your partner in health.

Our mission is to provide personalized solutions that help you regain control of your life.

With our team of expert arthritis consultants, state-of-the-art treatments, and commitment to patient comfort, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Ready to take control of your arthritis and improve your quality of life?

Contact St. Paul Rheumatology today to schedule a consultation with our expert arthritis consultants. Let us help you live a healthier, more comfortable life.

Stethoscope Icon


A foundation for a successful treatment plan.


Microscope Icon

Clinical Research

Driven To Find New Treatments for Our Patients

Clinical Research Studies

Medical Bag Icon

Infusion Center

Where Cutting Edge Treatment Meets Patient Comfort

Infusion Center Services

St Paul Rheumatology