WHAT IS A BONE DENSITY TEST (DEXA SCAN)
A bone density test is used to measure bone mineral content and density. It may be done using X-rays, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA). The testing procedure typically measures the bone density of the bones of the spine, lower arm, and hip.
This measurement tells the healthcare provider whether there is decreased bone mass. This is a condition in which bones are more brittle and prone to break or fracture easily.
WHEN IS A DEXA SCAN USED
A bone density test is mainly done to look for osteoporosis (thin, weak bones) and osteopenia (decreased bone mass) so that these problems can be treated as soon as possible. Early treatment helps to prevent bone fractures. The complications of broken bones related to osteoporosis are often severe, particularly in the elderly. The earlier osteoporosis can be diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be started to improve the condition and/or keep it from getting worse.
A bone density testing may be used to:
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you have already had a bone fracture
- Predict your chances of fracturing a bone in the future
- Determine your rate of bone loss
- See if treatment is working
Some common risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Post-menopausal women not taking estrogen
- Advancing age, women over 65 and men over 70
- Family history of hip fracture
- Using steroids long-term or certain other medicines
- Certain diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, liver disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or hyperparathyroidism
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Low BMI (body mass index)
How to prepare for a Bone Density Scan
- No calcium supplements for 24 ours prior to appointment
- Wear clothing without buttons or zippers. You also may be asked to change into a gown.