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What are bone density studies?

Bone density studies evaluate your bones to see if you have signs of osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones fragile and increases your risk of fractures. Advanced Diagnostics and Imaging uses bone densitometry or DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) bone density tests.

Before bone density studies were available, doctors could only identify osteoporosis after a bone fractured. However, bone weakening is likely to be irreversible at that stage, limiting patients’ treatment options.

A bone density study enables you to determine your risk of fractures in advance. High-risk patients can then benefit from nutritional supplements (typically calcium and vitamin D), exercise, and preventive medications.

How do bone density studies work?

Bone density studies use X-rays to measure the quantity of calcium and other essential minerals in a section of your bone. Advanced Diagnostics and Imaging technologists typically test the bones in your lumbar spine (lower back), hip, and forearm.

The bone density study produces a T-score that compares your bone mineral density to someone young and healthy. A T-score of -2.5 or less indicates you have osteoporosis or abnormally low bone mineral density (BMD).

This means your BMD has fallen to a dangerous level, where the bones are so weakened you’re at risk of incurring a fracture with minimal trauma.

When should I have bone density studies?

It’s normal to start losing strength in your bones once you reach 30. However, this is a gradual process. Unless you have any additional risk factors or you start or stop hormone replacement therapy, you probably won’t need to undergo bone density studies until 65.

Osteoporosis affects men and women but is significantly more common in women, so it’s primarily women who undergo bone density studies. The main reason is the effect of menopause, a process women go through in their middle years when levels of the female hormone estrogen fall dramatically.

The risk of osteoporosis increases after menopause and with advancing age. Bone density studies can detect lower-than-average bone mineral density (osteopenia). If you have this condition, starting treatment can usually prevent osteoporosis.

How are bone density studies performed?

When you visit Advanced Diagnostics and Imaging for your bone density study, you lie on a comfortable table. Your technologist delivers X-rays into your bones at a low dose — around one-tenth the amount you’d receive during a chest X-ray.

The exam is painless and only takes about 15 minutes. When they get the results, your doctor can discuss them with you and recommend further action where necessary.

To find out more about bone density studies and their role in osteoporosis prevention, call Advanced Diagnostics and Imaging today or book an appointment online.