Bone Density (Osteoporosis) Scan
A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures how much calcium and other types of minerals are in an area of your bone.
This test helps your health care provider detect osteoporosis and predict your risk of bone fractures.
How the Test is Performed
Bone density testing can be done several different ways. The most common and accurate way uses a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. DEXA uses low-dose x-rays. (You receive more radiation with a chest x-ray.)
There are two types of DEXA scans:
- Central DEXA. You lie on a soft table. The scanner passes over your lower spine and hip. Usually, you do not need to undress. This scan is the best test to predict your risk of fractures.
- Peripheral DEXA (p-DEXA). These smaller machines measure the bone density in your wrist, fingers, leg, or heel. These machines are in doctor's offices, pharmacies, shopping centers, and at health fairs.
How to Prepare for the Test
If you are or could be pregnant, tell your health care provider before this test is done.
How Will the Test Feel
The scan is painless. You need to remain still during the test.
Wear comfortable clothing, preferably without any metal, buttons, zippers, or buckles.
You should not have a Dexa exam within 1 week of any type of oral contrast examinations such as an UGI, SBFT, BE, or CT scan of the abdomen or pelvis.
If you are taking calcium supplements do not take the medicine on the night before or morning of the examination.
Call ahead if you are pregnant or have special needs.
Why is the Test Performed
Bone mineral density (BMD) tests are used to:
- Diagnose bone loss and osteoporosis
- See how well osteoporosis medicine is working
- Predict your risk of future bone fractures
You should have bone mineral testing or screening if you have an increased risk of osteoporosis. You are more likely to get osteoporosis if you are:
- A woman, age 65 or older
- A man, age 70 or older
Women under age 65 and men ages 50 to 70 are at increased risk of osteoporosis if they have:
- A broken bone caused by normal activities, such as a fall from standing height or lower (fragility fracture)
- Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
- Early menopause (either from natural causes or surgery)
- History of hormone treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer
- Significant loss of height due to compression fractures of the back
- Strong family history of osteoporosis
- Taking corticosteroid medications (prednisone, methylprednisolone) every day for more than 3 months
- Taking thyroid hormone replacement
- Three or more drinks of alcohol a day on most days
Current practice recommends BMD retesting every 2 years. However, recent research suggests that some women may be able to wait a much longer time between their screening tests. Discuss with your doctor how often you should be tested.
The results of your test are usually reported as a T-score and Z-score:
- T-score compares your bone density with that of healthy young women.
- Z-score compares your bone density with that of other people of your age, gender, and race.
With either score, a negative number means you have thinner bones than average. The more negative the number, the higher your risk of a bone fracture.
A T-score is within the normal range if it is -1.0 or above.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Bone mineral density testing does not diagnose fractures. Along with other risk factors you may have, it helps predict your risk of having a bone fracture in the future. Your doctor will help you understand the results.
If your T-score is:
- Between -1 and -2.5, you may have early bone loss (osteopenia).
- Below -2.5, you likely have osteoporosis.
Treatment recommendation depends on your total fracture risk. This risk can be calculated using the FRAX score. Your health care provider can tell you more about this. You can also find information about FRAX online.
Bone mineral density uses a slight amount of radiation. Most doctors feel that the risk is very low compared with the benefits of finding osteoporosis before you break a bone.
Bone Density Scanning is in the same office as Mammography.
We are located at:
821 S St. Helena Hwy, Suite 204
St. Helena, CA 94574
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (707) 963-1912.