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What is a body scan?

A DEXA scan is the best way to measure body fat. It’s a medical-grade technology used in hospitals and sports science research facilities that uses a very low dose of X-ray to give an accurate and precise measurement of body fat, lean mass and bone.

If you’re just beginning a diet or fitness programme, or looking to change your body composition, this is the perfect time for a DEXA body scan because it will give you the most accurate and precise picture of where you’re starting from. Follow-up scans will track your progress by showing the changes in body fat and lean mass in your arms, legs and trunk region.

Your Bodyscan report will also read your visceral fat and the risk it poses to your health. Visceral fat is the unseen toxic fat that surrounds the internal organs and is linked with diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and stroke.

What is the procedure?

Having a body scan is quick, comfortable and completely safe (the dose of X-ray is equivalent to less than one day’s normal background radiation).

You’ll lie on a padded mattress in a gown or in your underwear while a scanning arm passes over the length of your body three times. The whole scan takes less than four minutes. It’s not intrusive or claustrophobic and completely pain free. In fact, many Bodyscan clients say they find the experience so relaxing they sometimes fall asleep! You can see the DEXA machine in action at 2’24” in this video.

After the scan and while you’re getting dressed again, your Bodyscan consultant will spend a minute analysing the scan and then print out the detailed report showing your body composition in detail. If it’s your first (Baseline) scan with us, your consultant will sit down with you and take you through the report in detail to make sure you understand everything and give you the opportunity to ask any questions. Follow-up (Progress) scans include an automatic comparison with previous scans within the report to show precise changes in body fat and lean body mass.

How long does a DEXA body scan take?

Bodyscan uses the fastest scanning technology from Hologic, which means the entire scan is over in less than four minutes. Older DEXA models and those from other manufacturers take seven minutes or more. 

Although the actual scan is short, your first (Baseline) appointment will be for an hour so we can take you through the report and discuss your fat-loss or muscle-building goals and objectives, and to give you your calorie targets and a timeline to reach your final goal.

When you have a follow-up scan to check your progress, the scan is the same but there is no detailed consultation, so the appointment is just 20 minutes. One of the pages of your Progress report will show precise changes in body fat and lean mass between that scan and up to five previous scans. Here’s that page from a female customer who lost 18.8kg (41lbs or 3 stone) of body fat in a year.

How much does a body scan cost?

Please check our pricing page for current prices.

As at September 2021, your first (Baseline) scan with face-to-face consultation is £169. Follow-up Progress scans are £139 but you can save a great deal by buying a package in advance or by pre-paying for future scans at your first appointment.

A package includes the Baseline scan plus one, two or three scans, valid for one year. For example, the VF3 package comprises your first Baseline scan plus two Progress scans and is priced at £339, a saving of £108.

To book your first scan, click here. To buy a package, click here to create an account and then choose your package.

If you buy a VF4 package of one Baseline and three Progress scans, you can spread the cost over 12 monthly payments.

Why choose Bodyscan for your DEXA body scan?

Bodyscan was the first company in the UK to offer DEXA body scans to the public, in January 2015. Since that time we have performed over 12,000 scans and have what we believe to be the biggest database of DEXA body composition results in Europe. This depth and breadth of experience and data enables us to put your own results into perspective.

​Crucially, our scan results and data are from normal people like you and not confined to small research samples or samples that are usually young students of a sports science faculty – these don’t reflect real life.

Our consultants are experts in interpreting your DEXA report and explaining what it means for you, as well as giving you sound advice on how to reach your goals. The report contains a wealth of data and goes far beyond just body fat percentage. We’ll introduce and explain the other key metrics on the report, which are better measures of your body fat, muscle mass and how they’re distributed around your body.

We are based within two well-established, easy-to-reach, high-end private medical clinics in London (W1 and the City) and are fully compliant with the relevant regulations on ionising radiation, and have been awarded a ‘Good’ rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the national regulator of all health providers.

Having the scan

How do I prepare for a DEXA scan?

We simply ask that you fast (don’t eat) for at least four hours before the scan and be normally hydrated with water. That way, you won’t have a big meal in your stomach, which could affect the results. You’ll also know to be in the same state when you have your next scan.

Also, please don’t do heavy exercise, like a big run or a heavy workout.

What do I wear for the body scan?

Men – Nearly all men have the scan in their underwear, though if you prefer you can ask for a hospital gown. You can get changed in privacy behind a curtain.

Women – You will be asked to change into a 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, both men and women can wear loose-fitting sports clothing with no metal attachments or zips, such as cotton shorts and a sports top.

Alternatively you can wear loose-fitting gym gear, such as light shorts and a T-shirt.

Do not wear anything too restrictive or tight-fitting, such as lycra or figure-hugging clothes.

Are DEXA body scans safe?

The DEXA scan uses a tiny dose of ionising radiation (X-rays) to measure your body composition. To put the dose and the risk in perspective, it is equivalent to eating 50 grams of Brazil nuts, and less than one day’s normal background radiation that we each receive every day from outer space and the earth’s natural radiation.

To put it another way, you are effectively having a DEXA body scan every day without even knowing it. The dose is so low that the UK Health Protection Agency’s (now Public Health England) Radiation Protection Division (HPA-RPD) describes the risk from the radiation dose of a body scan as “negligible”.

How long does a DEXA scan take?

The actual scan takes less than four minutes but your first appointment with a consultation lasts up to an hour. It is to ensure you fully understand everything in the report, interpret your personal results and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have.

When you have a follow-up scan to check your progress, the scan is exactly the same but there is no detailed consultation. The appointment is just 20 minutes, which is enough time to briefly discuss what progress you have made since your previous scan. One of the pages of your Progress report will show precise changes in fat and lean mass between your latest scan and the previous scans (up to five previous scans).

Is a DEXA scan uncomfortable or claustrophobic?

A DEXA body scan is non-intrusive and completely pain free, so there is no need to be anxious or nervous. There are no injections and nothing is attached to you. In fact, many Bodyscan clients say they find the experience calming and relaxing and sometimes fall asleep!

You will lie on a padded mattress and a scanning arm will pass over you three times. The DEXA machine is not like an MRI or CT ‘doughnut’ scanner in that you do not go ‘inside’ the machine. So don’t worry if you suffer from claustrophobia, you will not feel any sense of confinement at all. The scanning arm passes at least 30cm (12 inches) away from your body. You will need to remain still during the scan but you should be relaxed and breathe normally. Relax and imagine you are lying on the beach! The scan itself takes less than four minutes and the Bodyscan operator will be in the room with you and can stop the scan immediately if you feel uncomfortable.

Can I have a DEXA scan with a Pacemaker or metal implants?

If you have any implants of any material, such as a hip or knee replacement or a Pacemaker or stents, again, don’t worry, the scan can go ahead as normal. Metal implants will show up as dense bone on your Bodyscan report but they will not affect the fat and lean data. There is no risk to the operation of your Pacemaker.

How frequently can I have a scan?

You can have a scan every eight weeks (56 days). The optimum period for most people is 12 weeks to track meaningful, measurable changes but if you are on a shorter or more ambitious fat-loss/muscle-building programme then a shorter interval of at least eight weeks may be appropriate.

Can I bring someone with me to the body scan?

If you would like to bring a friend or relative with you, they can be with you during the introduction and the consultation but not during the scan itself, which is about four minutes.

However, a chaperone, nurse or carer can be with you during the scan if required. They will have to sign a form to remain in the room during the scan. It would be helpful if you could drop us an email and let us know in advance.

Our operators are male, so if you require a female chaperone please let us know and we will arrange for a female member of staff from our host clinics to join you. Again, it would be helpful if you could let us know in advance.

Does a DEXA body scan measure bone density?

This is a frequent question and the short answer is ‘no’ (but it depends on your objectives). If your prime reason for having the DEXA scan is low bone density or osteoporosis then please do NOT book a body scan with us.

We’ve made this video to explain the differences between body scans and bone scans.

Whilst the machine is the same for measuring bone density and body composition, they are two very different types of scan. The Bodyscan report DOES give a good indication of your bone density but this is only an indication and not a definitive, diagnosable result. In other words, it’s not a result a doctor would make any firm decisions on.

Nevertheless, if the indication was unusually high or low then we would advise you see your GP or a bone specialist for specialist advice.

However, if your primary reason for coming to Bodyscan is your body composition (which it should be!) then the indication of your bone density is certainly very useful to know. As your bone density is unknown (until you break a bone or have a bone scan) we have had many customers we’ve advised to seek specialist medical attention based on the body scan’s bone density indication.

If you require a dedicated bone scan in relation to low bone density and osteoporosis, you can request these from your GP or get one privately. Our host clinic in Marylebone, London Medical, performs these one day a week and you can arrange them by calling 08000 483 330. For facilities local to you, Google ‘private DEXA bone scan’.

Can I have a female consultant?

All our consultants are currently male so we can’t offer you a female at this time.

However, we do operate a chaperone policy so if you would like a female member of staff to be in the room during your welcome chat, while you get changed (behind a privacy curtain) and during the scan, we can arrange that with advance notice. Please email us in advance.

Please check our FAQs first!

Our FAQs give info on Prices, Making a Booking, Having the Scan and Prepaid Packages.