How Bone Density Testing is Done

Women are at a much greater risk for osteoporosis than men, but why would you wait until you grow old to determine whether or not your bones are already damaged? Bone density testing, also known as bone mineral density tests or bone mass measurement, is available for anyone who wants to know the health and condition of their bones. The test is both painless and safe to take. Just go to a hospital or consult your family physician to know more about the type of procedure that would suit you. Here’s an overview of how it’s done.

There are different machines and methods used to perform bone densitometry testing. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA is commonly used in measuring bone mass density (BMD) because it gives precise measurements of BMD in specific areas such as the hip, spine, and forearm. Aside from this, it is also the easiest and fastest to perform, the most affordable, and exposes you to minimal radiation—even less than what you get exposed to when you take a traditional chest X-ray.

  1. DEXA procedure. For this procedure, a DEXA scanner is used. It is a machine that produces two X-ray beams with different energy levels—one is high energy, while the other is low energy. The usual procedure requires patients to lie down still on a padded table for a few minutes while the scanner is passed over their body, focusing on bone regions. The bone scan process usually takes between 10 to twenty minutes, and the patient won’t feel any discomfort or pain at all. The amount of X-rays that pass through the body is measured for each beam and varies depending on the thickness of the patient’s bone. The difference between these two beams is the basis for the measurement of BMD. After the test, a radiologist or metabolic bone expert would be able to review the scan.
  2. Analyzing test results. Test results are composed of two kinds of scores: the “T score” which compares your bone density with the standards of other healthy people in general, and the “Z score” which compares your bone density with the standards of other people that share the same gender, age and race. It is applicable to both scores that if you get a positive number or anything within the range of -1.0 and above, your bones are in normal condition. However, if you get negative numbers, it means that your bones are thinner and less healthy than normal. If this were the case, the doctor would be able to explain the test results to you in detail and advise you what to do. DEXA is particularly recommended for hip and spine measurements, because these areas are perfect for predicting bone loss and bone fracture situated in other areas. It can also detect the presence and the risk of bone disease.
  3. Other methods available. Two other bone density testing methods include quantitative computerized tomography and ultrasonography. The former is a type of test that provides accurate measurement of bone density in the spine. However, it is more expensive and requires a higher level of radiation and is therefore seldom used. The latter measures the bone density of the heel and is useful for detecting fracture risk but is also seldom used because it provides no clear guidelines for diagnosing osteoporosis.

Even before you reach your menopause years, it is beneficial for you to consult a doctor about bone density testing. It is better to do something to prevent bone disease and other risks involved.


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