What is Bone Densitometry?

Bone densitometry measures the bone mineral content in various sites of the body, allowing a physician to diagnose osteoporosis and assess a patient's risk of suffering bone fractures. Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces bone density and often leads to fractures, pain and physical deformity. Osteoporosis can progress silently for years, showing no symptoms until painful or debilitating fractures occur.

Why should I have a bone density scan?

Early detection of bone loss is the best way to prevent osteoporosis. The Bone Density scan will alert you to any problems and allow your referring practitioner to prescribe treatments that will curb bone loss.


What will happen during my bone density scan?

A bone density scan is a simple, non-invasive procedure. At the beginning of the exam, you will be asked to lie down on a scan table and remain motionless. A scanner will pass over one of three skeletal areas - your lower spine, hip or wrist. As the scanner moves, a dual energy beam passes through the targeted skeletal section and is measured by a detector. The scanner then passes over a second skeletal area and repeats the process.

A bone density scan is very safe with minimal radiation. Nevertheless, if you are pregnant or suspect you are pregnant, inform your technologist or healthcare practitioner before the procedure.

How long will the bone density scan take?

The entire procedure lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the scan is complete, the radiologist will interpret the findings and forward a report to your referring practitioner.

Exam preparation instructions

Click here for exam preparation instructions for bone densitometry procedures.

Boning Up on Osteoporosis

Q:  How common is osteoporosis?
A:  Osteoporosis affects one in two women over the age of 50
A:  Osteoporosis affects one in four men over the age of 50

Q:  What is the chance of breaking a bone from osteoporosis?
A:  Forty percent of women will break at least one bone
A:  Fifteen percent of men will break at least one bone

Q:  Can regular X-rays tell if I have osteoporosis?
A:  Not until the osteoporosis is very advanced.

Q:  What bones are most commonly broken in osteoporosis?
A:  The wrist, the hip and the bones in the spine (the vertebrae), which is why those areas are selected for bone density study.

Q:  Who is at risk of developing osteoporosis?
A:  The list of risk factors for osteoporosis is long and you need to review your own risks with your doctor.  Some of the major risks that might indicate your need for a bone density study are:

  • women who are postmenopausal
  • a broken bone with a minimal trauma
  • more than one broken bone
  • a strong family history of osteoporosis
  • use of certain medications such as prednisone
Bone Densitometry Publications

For more patient information regarding Bone Densitometry please refer to http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=dexa