A bone density test — also called densitometry or DXA scan — determines whether you have osteoporosis or are at risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break.
A bone density test makes it possible to know your risk of breaking bones before the fact.
A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. A bone density test is a fairly accurate predictor of your risk of fracture. The procedure is painless and takes about 30 minutes to perform. Your doctor will then get the results of your test and can make an informed decision about whether you will need further evaluation or treatment.
Why it’s done
Doctors use bone density testing to:
- Identify decreases in bone density before you break a bone
- Determine your risk of broken bones (fractures)
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you’ve experienced broken bones
- Monitor osteoporosis treatment
The higher your bone mineral content, the denser your bones are. And the denser your bones, the stronger they generally are and the less likely they are to break.
Bone density tests are not the same as bone scans. Bone scans require an injection beforehand and are usually used to detect fractures, cancer, infections and other abnormalities in the bone.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density testing if:
- You’re a woman age 65 or older
- You’re a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
- You’re a man age 70 or older
- You’re a man between age 50 and 70 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis
- You’re older than age 50 and you’ve experienced a broken bone
- You’re a postmenopausal woman and you’ve stopped taking estrogen therapy or hormone therapy
Osteoporosis risk factors
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Getting older, which increases your risk of osteoporosis because bones become weaker as you age
- Ethnicity — for instance, women who are white or of Southeast Asian descent have the greatest risk of osteoporosis, and African-American and Hispanic men and women have a lower, but still significant, risk of the disease
- Low body weight, or under 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms) if you’re of average height
- A personal history of fractures after age 40
- A family history of osteoporosis or hip fractures
- Using certain medications that can cause bone loss, especially steroids
Please contact the Port Lavaca Clinic at 361-552-6721 to set up your bone density test or ask to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss any question you might have about the procedure.