Why you may need a DXA Scan, or Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test
Physicians recommend BMD testing for many different types of patients, including patients taking steroid medication, patients with hyperthyroidism, patients who have had a fracture in which osteoporosis is suspected and postmenopausal women with risk factors for osteoporosis. Your doctor may schedule a BMD test to help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis before a fracture occurs, detect low bone mass before osteoporosis develops or monitor the effects of treatment on bone density over time. Additional risk factors that can contribute to thinning bones or osteoporosis include family history, Caucasian (white) or Asian descent, small or thin build, smoking, infrequent exercise, excessive use of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, or a diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D.
Early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference in your life
Osteoporosis and associated fractures can rob you of your mobility and independence. Osteoporosis is a ‘silent disease’ that reduces the strength of your bones, causing them to become brittle and prone to fractures. A significant number of women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and are at risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture. With the results of your test, you and your doctor can determine what lifestyle changes or treatment measures should be taken. If osteoporosis is diagnosed, treatments are available that can increase bone density and reduce the risk of fracture. Early diagnosis can make a difference in your life.
How much radiation will I be exposed to during the test?
Bone mineral density (BMD) tests use small amounts of radiation to determine the density of the spine, hip or total body. Your radiation exposure will be a fraction of what you would receive from a chest X-ray, and actually about the same as you would experience on a cross-country airline flight. A DXA scan is considered the “gold standard” in measuring your bone health. The DXA scan is a highly sensitive scan, and is more comprehensive than the peripheral machines (finger or heel) so results are more accurate. This makes the DXA scan the best way to tell if you have thinning bones.
How is a bone density test performed?
The DXA machine measures your bone density by performing a touch-free scan, similar to an x-ray, so it’s painless. You will be asked to lie on a padded table while a movable arm passes over the area to be tested, for example, the arms, spine or hips. In a matter of minutes, depending on the number of sites to be scanned, our DXA machine will complete your bone density test. The test is non-invasive and does not require any medication or injections. Your results are compared with the average BMD of healthy adults of your age and sex. This information will help your doctor diagnose osteoporosis or assess your risk for developing osteoporosis in the future.
Preparing for a DXA scan
For your comfort during the exam wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing without zippers, buckles or metal buttons. Unless instructed otherwise, eat normally on the day of the exam, but avoid taking calcium supplements for at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. You should not have a barium study, radioisotope injection or oral or intravenous contrast material from a CT scan or MRI within seven days prior to your DXA exam.