What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle, leading to a higher risk of fractures (breaks or cracks) than in normal bone.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Unfortunately, for many, the condition is only diagnosed when someone breaks a bone. Fortunately it is now possible to diagnose the condition using a special kind of Xray called a DEXA scan.

What is a DXA scan?

Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a bone density test (medical name – Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry; DXA). It is a short, painless scan that measures the density (strength) of your bones, usually at the hip and spine. The result from this test is called a T-score.

Who needs a DEXA scan?

All women over the age of 65ys and all men over the age of 70yrs.

Men and women younger than this may require a scan if they have additional risk factors for osteoporosis (including; a low trauma fracture (any fall from a standing height), steroid use, rheumatoid arthritis, cigarette smoking, malabsorption e.g. coeliac disease, colitis, Crohn’s disease and heavy alcohol intake).

How often do I need a DXA scan?

If your scan is normal it is unlikely to will require another scan for 5-10 yrs.

It rarely makes sense to repeat a scan more than every two years (bone density changes  slowly) unless you have particular reasons to lose bone quickly (continuous steroid medications, certain treatments for breast of prostate cancer for example).

It is essential that repeat scans are done on the same machine as there are small differences between DXA machines which may affect the interpretation of results.

Who pays for the DXA scan?

To avail of your scan privately the scan costs in the region of €100.

Remember that you can reduce the cost of your medical expenses by submitting receipts to The Revenue with your tax return.

It is possible to have a scan done free of charge through the public health system. Delays may ensue and there is a restriction on how often scans may be repeated.

Do the insurers pay?

The VHI have begun to cover some of the costs of these scans (in certain centers) for patients with certain risk factors. The amount of coverage depends on the type of policy you hold and whether you have recently renewed your policy. In Galway, coverage for VHI patients is in the Bone Density service at the Bon Secours Hospital. If you want to find out if you are covered ring them on 091- 381922.

Quinn Healthcare have an arrangement with Irish Healthcare (based in The Galway Clinic) to cover some of the costs of DXA scanning.

Aviva do not provide any cover for DXA scanning.

It is usually possible to recoup the cost of the scan from GMA / ESB and the Prison officers insurance scheme.

Make sure you check before you attend.