Bone Densitometry

Bone Densitometry, also known as bone density, is a non-invasive scan of your bone mineral density or bone mass. It is a simple, painless exam that delivers approximately one-quarter to one-tenth the radiation that occurs during an ordinary chest X-ray.

People with porous bones, or osteoporosis, have higher risk for bone fracture. Bone densitometry provides information about your bones that, when compared to people whose age, sex and ethic background are similar to yours, can predict your potential for bone fractures. The most common risk factors for osteoporosis are:

  • Postmenopausal
  • Early menopause (before age 45)
  • Surgical menopause
  • Age
  • Previous fracture
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Certain medications (including steroids and thyroid hormones)
  • Caucasian/Asian descent
  • Thin or small build
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Inadequate calcium intake

What to expect

Before your exam, a radiologic technologist will ask you to change into a gown. You will be asked to lie on your back on the examining table. The technologist will guide an overhead arm above your body. This arm is taking readings of your bones.  It is very important that you lie still while images are being taken so that the images are clear.

Please inform the technologist if you are pregnant or could be pregnant prior to the exam.

The exam takes approximately 15 minutes to perform. A radiologist will interpret the bone densitometry images and your doctor will discuss the results of the scan with you.

Commonly asked questions
How often do I need a bone density test?

  • Each patient has a unique history. Your doctor will work with you to establish when you should have your baseline exam and when to repeat.

Why do you only scan my back and hips?

  • The most accurate data is obtained from the lower back and hips.

Is this radiation?

  • Yes, but about 1/10th the dose of a chest X-ray.

How can technologists be in the room without protection?

  • The radiation level is so low that the technologist is not in any danger.

Can you tell me if I should be taking medication?

  • After your doctor receives your results, he or she will discuss them with you, including if you need to take any medication.

How do my joints look?

  • The radiologist reviews your images and provides a final report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.

I’m having back pain.  Can you see anything wrong?

  • The radiologist reviews your images and provides a final report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.

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