What Is Bone Densitometry?
Bone densitometry is a test like an X-ray that quickly and accurately measures the density of bone. It is used primarily to detect osteopenia or osteoporosis, diseases in which the bone's mineral and density are low and the risk of fractures is high.
Before a Bone Densitometry Scan
If you think you may be pregnant, notify your doctor before getting a bone densitometry scan. You do not have to change your daily routine before this test. Eat, drink, and take any medication as you normally would. However, do not take calcium supplements or drugs that contain calcium, such as Tums, 24 hours before your bone densitometry test.
On the Day of a Bone Densitometry Scan
Do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards when you are scheduled for a bone densitometry scan. You may be asked to wear a hospital gown for the test. After the test, the results are reviewed by certified, specially trained technologists and board-certified radiologists.
During a Bone Densitometry Scan
For a bone densitometry scan, you will lie on your back, on a padded table, in a comfortable position. The lumbar spine (lower back) and the hip are the skeletal sites usually examined by the scan.
After a Bone Densitometry Scan
Generally, you can resume usual activities immediately after your bone scan. The results of the scan should be available to your doctor within 24 hours after the test. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.
Who is this procedure for?
Bone densitometry can help diagnose osteoporosis and monitor its treatment. Bone densitometry is recommended for patients at risk for this disease, as well as bone fractures in general. Certain factors, such as age, body weight, medical history, family history and lifestyle habits, can greatly increase the risk of fractures. Patients at a higher risk for osteoporosis or fractures are often recommended for bone density testing. These may include:
- Post-menopausal women who are not taking estrogen
- Post-menopausal women who are tall (over 5’7) or thin (under 125 pounds)
- Patients with type 1 diabetes, liver disease or kidney disease
- Patients who use medication that cause bone loss, such as corticosteroids or anti-seizure medication
- Patients with a thyroid or parathyroid condition
- Patients with a high bone turnover
- Patients who have had nontraumatic fractures or are already diagnosed with osteoporosis
What happens during a bone density scan?
During a bone density scan, the patient lies on a table with an X-ray generator on one side and an imaging device on the other. The targeted area of the body, such as the spine, hip or forearm, will be positioned between the X-ray generator and imaging device as the X-ray generator sends low-dose radiation beams with two energy peaks through the body that are used to examine soft tissue and bone.
During a bone density scan, the patient lies on a table with an X-ray generator on one side and an imaging device on the other. The targeted area of the body, such as the spine, hip or forearm, will be positioned between the X-ray generator and imaging device as the X-ray generator sends low-dose radiation beams with two energy peaks through the body that are used to examine soft tissue and bone. Bone densitometry is considered the most accurate diagnostic test for osteoporosis and can help effectively determine a patient’s risk of fracture.
What are the risks associated with this procedure?
There are no major complications or side effects associated with the bone densitometry procedure. However, it is important to note that this exam cannot predict when or where a fracture may occur; it can only determine a patient’s risk of fracture.