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DEXA Scan Technology Improves Patient Care

patient with surgeon ellen raney

Waseem and his orthopedic surgeon, Ellen Raney, M.D., at the ribbon cutting of the new DEXA Scan at Shriners Children's Portland.

For Waseem, access to cutting-edge technology is a game changer. Waseem has osteogenisis imperfecta (OI), commonly called brittle bone disease. OI affects an estimated 25,000 – 50,000 people in the U.S. For children with this condition, it is incredibly important to have access to specialized pediatric orthopedic care to monitor their bones and receive bone-strengthening treatments as they grow.

Ellen Raney, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Shriners Children’s Portland, sees many kids with conditions affecting bone strength at the bone health clinic, and is excited to give patients like Waseem a better experience. “We care for children whose bones aren’t strong enough to do everyday activities without fear of fracture,” said Dr. Raney. “Weak bones in children could be from a genetic condition, or a condition associated with limited mobility. So monitoring the status of bone density at any one point in time helps us understand how well the strengthening treatments for their bones are working. This data from the DEXA Scan is incredibly important.”

Shriners Children’s Portland recently installed a DEXA Scan (dual X-ray absorptiometry), a bone density scanner which allows the specialists to have the best information before deciding on treatments for children with weaker bones, treatments like infusions of zoledronic acid. Most notably, the DEXA Scan helps inform medical staff of the precise amount needed for each child who undergoes infusions.

Before the scanner was installed at Shriners Children’s Portland, patients had to go to medical facilities for adults to get access to the DEXA Scan. Having this technology in house and calibrated for children is an incredible benefit to patients. “This will help us to better care for our kids,” said Dr. Raney. “It will help us to stabilize their bones and monitor medications. We are so happy to have this state-of-the-art equipment all under our roof so we can take care of children right away.”

“This means a lot for us,” said Mosafa, Waseem’s father. “This will be the first children’s hospital that has a DEXA Scan in the area. We typically go to an adult facility. Also, coordinating the appointments on the same day was impossible, so having everything under one roof, it means a lot to us as a family.”

DEXA Scan machine

The new DEXA Scan at Shriners Children's Portland started scanning patients in March, 2023 with the launch of the bone health clinic.

DEXA scanners have been installed at three other Shriners Children's locations: Chicago, Montreal and Galveston.

Tracy O’Brien, director of radiology at Shriners Children’s Chicago, touts the benefits having the DEXA Scan in house. “Not only does it allow us to follow our OI patients’ bone density and help with medication, it allows us to see the muscular dystrophy patients’ bone density and percentage of body fat. We can also monitor any patient with low bone density and those at risk for fractures, including spinal cord injuries.”

Danelle Jensen, radiology supervisor at Shriners Children’s Texas, spoke to how the DEXA Scan benefits the patients they see. “Pediatric patients with genetic or acquired chronic diseases, poor nutrition and immobility can leave them vulnerable to fractures. The DEXA scanner gives means to monitor bone health, skeletal fragility and occult (hidden) spinal fractures by providing the information doctors need to treat these patients. Many children at Shriners Children’s suffer from osteogenesis imperfecta. Along with clinical indications, this diagnostic tool is greatly needed at Shriners Children’s to help children increase bone strength and improve quality of life.”

dexa machine

The DEXA Scan at Shriners Children's Texas has been a great benefit to many patients.

Frank Rauch, M.D., from Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada, spoke of the development of the technology. “DEXA scanners were originally developed to diagnose osteoporosis in adults, but Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada was one of the first pediatric hospitals to be equipped with an early version of a DEXA device more than 30 years ago,” said Dr. Rauch. “DEXA quickly became an essential tool for examining children and adolescents with metabolic and genetic bone diseases, such as osteogenesis imperfecta. Knowing the bone density is essential for deciding the correct dose of bisphosphonate infusions, which children with fragile bones receive to increase bone density and to make their bones stronger. Thanks to the skills of the radiology staff at our hospital, we are able to obtain good DEXA scans at any age, even in babies who are just a few weeks old. Overall, the DEXA scanner is essential for running the metabolic bone disorders clinic, and most of the patients who are seen in this clinic will have a DEXA scan during their appointment.”

Lindsey Nicol, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist, plays an important role at the bone health clinic at Shriners Children’s Portland. “For me, having a DEXA Scan means I can provide a quality experience for our families,” said Dr. Nicol. “Given the last three years and all the trials we’ve been up against with COVID, and then having to tell families, 'you have to wait to get your scan,' it’s a wonderful thing to walk in the room and say, we can give this to you today!”

In addition to the DEXA Scan upgrade, Mostafa has found his experience at Shriners Children’s to be the best. “I want to thank everyone at Shriners Children’s Portland. They always provide their A game for us. I’ve never been to any facility that provides the level of care that Shriners Children’s provides.”

DEXA scan at Shriners Children’s Portland

Installed April 2023, the DEXA scan at Shriners Children’s Portland is the first DEXA scan calibrated for children in the Pacific Northwest!
View Transcript

[Bottom third: Waseem, Shriners Children's Portland Patient]


This machine right here, this will save us multiple trips of going from our house to over here. I was like, "We can all do it in one day." We're across the hall. She's like, "All right. Let's do your bone density right here." And yeah. One day saves time and just everything. It's amazing having this here.

[Bottom third: Ellen Raney, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon, Shriners Children's Portland]

Ellen Raney, M.D.:

This will help us measure the density in the bones and help us decide treatment if kids need it to try to make their bones more solid. It's all a part of our new bone health clinic that we're very excited about to treat more kids. We've always treated kids with genetic conditions, such as osteogenesis imperfecta or rickets, and now we're expanding that to other conditions that make kids' bones not as hard as they should be. Now, the people can come and see me or see my partner, Dr. Nicol, for a visit, and then we can go straight and we can just go right here and just get the test on the same day, same time. So it's wonderful.

[Bottom third: Lindsay Nicol, M.D., Pediatric Endocrinologist

Lindsay Nicol, M.D.:

This is critical that we have a machine that's dedicated for pediatrics, used only for kids, the proper reference ranges, the proper technologists to get accurate results and to get results that help us improve their care.

[Bottom third: Mostafa, Father of Shriners Children's Portland Patient]


On the top of the list, Shriner Hospital and Dr. Raney and Dr. Nicol showed on the top of the search. We joined some Facebook group for patients who actually use Shriner and we received an enormous amount of good feedback. And that's when we realized that where we have to be is the Portland area. And since then, we have moved here the past five years, and we have been using the services of Shriner.

I have never been into any facility that provide the level of care that Shriner Hospital provides. And I just want to encourage them to keep up the good work and thank them for the service they have provided for us.

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