What Is A Bone Densitometry Test?

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If you are at risk for bone loss or osteoporosis either due to your age, history, or lifestyle choices, your doctor may recommend that you get a bone density test called bone densitometry. Bone densitometry testing can detect decreasing bone density much earlier than other methods of diagnosis, allowing for treatment at an earlier stage.

What is a bone densitometry test?

Bone densitometry, also called duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (or DXA scan), is an imaging procedure similar to an x-ray that is used to measure bone density. By quickly measuring bone density, your doctor is able to detect and diagnose osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone density that can cause fractures.

Why use bone densitometry?

Because of its accuracy and effectiveness in diagnosing bone loss earlier, DXA has quickly become the gold standard for measuring bone density. In addition to diagnosing osteoporosis, DXA is also effective in tracking the effects of treatment recommended by your doctor. The DXA test can also evaluate a person’s risk of fractures, which can be affected by age, weight, family history, and lifestyle considerations such as smoking and alcohol consumption. These factors are taken into consideration when deciding if a patient needs physical therapy.

Who needs a bone densitometry scan?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that all women age 65 and older and all men over 70 have a DEXA scan at least once. Women should start getting them earlier, since oftentimes bone loss starts developing at an earlier stage in women due in part to menopause. You should also look into a bone densitometry scan if you fit the following criteria:

  • Women who've reached menopause and are not taking estrogen

  • People with history (personal or family) of hip fracture

  • Smokers

  • Men with clinical conditions associated with bone loss, such rheumatoid arthritis

  • People who take medications known to cause bone loss

How to prepare for a bone densitometry scan?

While you don’t need to do much to prepare for this scan, you should avoid taking any supplements that contain calcium 24 hours before your test. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, avoiding anything with metal zippers or buttons on it. You will need to remove any metal objects such as jewelry or watches that might interfere with the x-ray images.

Innovative diagnostic tests like bone densitometry make it easier than ever to diagnose and treat osteoporosis before it causes dangerous fractures. If you believe you are at risk, speak with your doctor about a bone densitometry test today!