Bone Density Testing

Bone densitometry (DEXA) (dual-energy-x-ray-absorptiometry) is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DEXA is used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that more often affects women after menopause but may also be found in men. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. A DEXA test can be used to assess a patient’s risk for developing fractures, and determine if preventative treatment is needed.

An X-ray is a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Involves exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation to produce pictures of the inside of the body. This procedure is most often performed on the lower spine and hips.

Bone Density testing is strongly recommended if you:

Post-menopausal woman and not taking estrogen.
Have a personal or maternal history of hip fracture or smoking.
Are a post-menopausal woman who is tall (over 5 feet 7 inches) or thin (less than 70 kg).
Are a man with clinical conditions associated with bone loss.
Use medications that are known to cause bone loss, including corticosteroids such as Prednisone, various anti-seizure medications such as Dilantin and certain barbiturates, or high-dose thyroid replacement drugs.
Have type 1 (formerly called juvenile or insulin-dependent) diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or a family history of osteoporosis.
Have high bone turnover, which shows up in the form of excessive collagen in urine samples.
Have a thyroid condition, such as hyperthyroidism.
Have experienced a fracture after only mild trauma.
Have had x-ray evidence of vertebral fracture or other signs of osteoporosis.

Preparation for procedure

On the day of the exam you may eat normally. You should not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.
You should wear loose, comfortable clothing, avoiding garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal.
You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.
Inform your physician if you recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a computed tomography (CT) scan or radioisotope scan. You may have to wait 10 to 14 days before undergoing a DEXA test.
Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy because radiation can be harmful to the fetus. If an x-ray is necessary, precautions will be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the baby.

How long does the exam take?

The DEXA examination takes about thirty minutes. The patient rests, without moving. This exam emits a very small amount of radiation, with two different energy levels to assess the differences of the bone density.

What Should I wear?

You should wear comfortable lightweight clothing, you may be asked to change into a patient gown.

What are my risks for developing osteoporosis?

The typical risk factors include:
family history
Caucasian race
poor calcium intake
poor dietary vitamin D intake
low estrogen levels
small or thin body build
lack of activity