State-of-the-Art Bone Density Scanner arrives at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital


In a darkened room at Stewart Memorial Community Hospital (SMCH) radiology technologists Jenni King, Pat Koster, Kendra Davis, and Taylor Bruening are laser focused on the training they are receiving on the new DEXA scanner the hospital recently purchased. Carefully, they move into place a piece of equipment called a phantom that will help the machine calibrate.

The Lake City hospital has owned a low dose radiation bone density scanner (DEXA) since 2004 but recently purchased a brand new state of the art Hologic scanner when the previous model reached end of life.  The new machine renders improved image detail and software upgrades offer increased options. Additionally, the time it takes for a scan is markedly shorter. For a bone density scan, each body part is scanned in 30 to 60 seconds. 

Jenni King, director of radiology at SMCH, says the DEXA scanner at the hospital is most often used to quantify bone density in patients over the age of 60. Their medical providers can use the information from the scan to further examine medications and the genetics of the patient to determine the risk for breaking bones as a result of a fall. “People tend to think that bones are unchanging, but this is not the case as our bones are constantly changing. Right now your body has specialized cells destroying old bits of bone and replacing them with new bone. Sadly, as we age, we lose bone more rapidly than we can replace it, so our bones can become weak and brittle. Left unchecked, this bone loss can lead to osteoporosis. This disorder makes your bones weak and prone to fracture. Fractures of the spine and hip can lead to chronic pain, deformity, depression, disability, and even death. Osteoporosis does not cause any symptoms, so people will not know they have this condition until they suffer an unexpected bone breakage. That’s where our bone density Dexa scan test comes in. Our healthcare providers use these tests to both screen for and diagnose osteoporosis. Our state of the art Dexa machine can alert you to problems with your bones before you have a fracture. If it turns out that you have osteoporosis or are at risk for it, our team of professionals will work with you to take the necessary steps to prevent fractures.”

The machine’s capability of doing full body composition scans can be used in other areas as well. Jenni explains, “This type of scan reveals the percentages of bone, muscle, and fat of the body in a very colorful, visual way. In addition to osteopedic tests, the applications are numerous. Sports programs can measure an athlete’s growth and make adjustments to nutrition and exercise programs. Bariatric programs can track a patient’s weight loss. After surgery or physical therapy, a medical provider can measure muscle improvement after an injury.”

With the arrival of the new scanner during the $31 million renovation and expansion project at the hospital, a new home was needed for the large piece of equipment that would be easily accessible to patients. The previous scanner had been located a distance from the radiology department. “We had a space in our department that had been an x-ray room,” explains Jenni, “but since we now use strictly digital imaging rather than film, we were able to convert that space into our new DEXA room. It will be much more convenient for patients to stay within the department rather than having to take a long walk before their scan.”

The investment in the new equipment reflects the dedication of the critical access hospital to the care and well-being of the patients it serves. “Stewart Memorial and the McCrary Rost Clinics have focused on having state-of-the-art equipment in place to assure the health and wellness of our communities. We are leading the way for medical imaging services in northwest rural Iowa. Last fall we installed the first 128-slice Toshiba CT Scanner in Iowa for the patients and families we serve. Our latest investment into a new DEXA scanner will ensure we are doing our part to provide exceptional care for those we service by our friendly, highly skilled team,” comments CEO Cindy Carstens.