If you’re on this page you’re probably wondering how to prepare for a DEXA body scan. What to wear, whether you can eat or drink, are there any prohibited activities, etc.
When it comes to what to wear for a DEXA scan, the short answer is as little as possible, but don’t wory, you won’t be doing it naked!
Men – Nearly all men have the scan in their underwear, though if you prefer you can ask for a hospital gown and get changed in privacy behind a curtain. Bodyscan’s DEXA consultants are currently all male, so most men feel very comfortable wearing just their underwear.
Women – Most women having a DEXA scan change into our hospital gown in a curtained changing area for privacy. Underneath the gown you should remove all clothing except underpants. You can wear a non-wired bra (eg, a sports bra) but not a traditional wired bra.
Alternatively, you can wear loose-fitting sports clothing with no metal attachments or zips, such as cotton shorts and a loose-fitting sports top.
Do not wear anything too restrictive or tight-fitting, such as lycra or figure-hugging clothes.
Also, on a practical note, you should think about what to wear to the DEXA scan appointment, not just what you wear on the scanning table. Because you have to undress, think twice before wearing skinny jeans, clothes with many buttons or fasteners or tall boots with many lace holes that are difficult and time-consuming to remove. Be casual – that’s what you should wear for your DEXA scan appointment!
Can I wear jewellery for the scan?
Male or female, we ask that you remove big items of jewellery. If items are difficult or impossible to remove then you can leave them in.
Please note that small pieces of metal (eg, piercings, an underwired bra) or plastic will not affect the result of your body composition scan. These items, which are denser than fat and lean tissue, will show up on the image but they will not contribute to the overall fat mass and lean mass results.
Also, rest assured that any metal, plastic or synthetic artefacts (piercings, implants, teeth-fillings, prosthetics, hip/knee repacements, hearing aids, Pacemakers, etc) will be entirely unaffected by the DEXA scan. They will not heat up, vibrate or malfunction when X-rayed.
Removing all artificial artefacts such as jewellery, piercings, zips and wired bras is regarded as best practice in radiology.
Preparing for a DEXA scan – food, drink and exercise
Aside from what you wear for the DEXA scan, we ask that you fast (do not eat) or eat very light for four hours beforehand. Do not have your DEXA scan after a big, full-English breakfast, a heavy lunch or dinner. We want to measure you, not what’s in your gut!
If you must eat, then keep it light – a piece of fruit, a slice of bread or a small bowl of cereal perhaps.
Please note you should be normally hydrated. Do not avoid drinking if you are thirsty, but at the same time do not over-drink. Tea, coffee and water are fine, but just enough to keep you hydrated and comfortable.
Ideally, you should prepare for your DEXA scan in the same way every time to ensure the most reliable comparison every time. The four-hour advice is simply a way of helping you establish a consistent ‘marker’ every time, rather than trying to remember if and when you ate before your previous scans.
Of course, you will always have food in your digestive system, you will never be entirely ’empty’ in that respect, but preparing for your DEXA scan by not eating or eating light for a fixed, standard period of four hours ensures your results are as consistent as possible.
Immediately before your scan you should empty your bladder.
Finally, together with limiting food intake, one more factor to consider as you prepare for your scan is exercise. You should not do heavy exercise for the same period (four hours) before the scan. Any exercise – cardio or resistance – will make you sweat and affect body water, plus you are more likely to drink to assuage your thirst. Resistance exercise will ‘pump’ your muscle tissue and can affect your lean mass results. Ideally, it is best to arrive calm and rested in preparation for your scan.