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Bone densitometry, also known as a bone density test or scan, allows physicians to check your body for osteoporosis. This is a chronic condition caused by a low level of bone calcium, resulting in weak bones that can easily break.

How Does It Work?

The technology involves a low dose of ionizing radiation, which is used to image and measure the bone density of your hips and lower spine. Doctors analyze these results to detect possible bone loss.

Bone densitometry, also known as DEXA or DXA, is noninvasive and painless.



Do I Need a Bone Density Scan?

Bone densitometry is used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition known as the thinning and weakening of weak bones; and osteopenia, a condition that leads to an overall decrease in bone mass. Osteoporosis can lead to debilitating and painful fractures, if left untreated. The key is early diagnosis. With bone densitometry, your doctor can assess structural changes before it leads to fragility, which allows early intervention.

You should consider getting a bone density testing if you:

  • Are not taking estrogen and are a postmenopausal woman
  • Use medications that result in bone density loss
  • Suffer from diseases including hyperthyroidism and hyperparathyroidism
  • Have experienced any sort of fracture from a previous incident
  • Have been diagnosed with liver disease, kidney disease, type 1 diabetes
  • Come from a family with a history of osteoporosis  

The Advantages of Bone Densitometry

The best thing about bone densitometry is that it’s quick and simple. It’s a painless, noninvasive procedure that requires no anesthesia.
Radiation exposure in bone densitometry is minimal, widely considered safe for all patients.
If you undergo treatment for osteoporosis, continuing regular bone densitometry will help your physician evaluate the effectiveness of your ongoing care plan.

FAQ and the Experience: Everything You Need To Know

How long does a bone densitometry examination take?

A typical bone densitometry scan takes about 10 minutes.

Do I have to wear anything special?

No. It is recommended that you wear comfortable clothing that you can relax in, such as loose and stretchy pants and tops. Try not to wear pieces of clothing with buttons or zippers; for women, you will be asked to take off your bra due to the hook.

What does a DXA test discover?

The test will determine your BMD, or bone mineral density. Your results will be compared to others of similar sex and age, and with this information your physician will be able to determine your fracture risk.

Does a bone densitometry test hurt?

No, the exam is noninvasive.

What do I have to do while the test is happening?

Just lie down and be still. Breathe calmly and wait for your technologist to provide you with instructions.

Will I be safe from the radiation?

Bone densitometry exposes you to a very small dose of radiation, typically less than one-tenth of the radiation used in a chest x-ray. Nevertheless, always inform your technologist or physician if there is any possibility you may be pregnant.

Is there any special treatment or preparation involved?

Bone densitometry requires no special preparation. No medications or injections are involved. If you have had a barium gastrointestinal exam within the last week, please let your technologist know.

Do I have to change anything about the way I eat before taking a bone densitometry test?

No. You are not required to avoid any foods, take any medication, come on an empty stomach, or any other preparations.

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