What is Osteoporosis?
It’s a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break.
What is bone density test?
A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis.
In the past, osteoporosis could be detected only after you broke a bone. By that time, however, your bones could be quite weak. 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. The bones that are most commonly tested are located in the spine, hip and forearm.
Why it is 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
Who can suffer from Osteoporosis?
Although osteoporosis is more common in older women, men also can develop the condition. Regardless of your sex or age, your doctor may recommend a bone density test if you've:
Lost height: People who have lost at least 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) in height may have experienced compression fractures in their spines. Osteoporosis is one of the main causes of compression fractures
Fractured a bone: Fragility fractures occur when a bone becomes so fragile that it breaks much more easily than expected. Fragility fractures can sometimes be caused by a strong cough or sneeze
Use of medication: Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process — which can lead to Osteoporosis
Received a transplant: People who have received an organ or bone marrow transplant are at higher risk of Osteoporosis, partly because anti-rejection drugs also interfere with the bone-rebuilding process
Experienced drop in hormone levels: In addition to the natural drop in hormones that occurs after menopause, women may also experience a drop in estrogen during certain cancer treatments. Some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men. Lowered hormone levels weaken bone
How to prepare for test?
Bone density tests are easy, fast and painless. Virtually no preparation is needed
If you're having the test done at a medical center or hospital, be sure to tell your doctor beforehand if you've recently had a barium exam or contrast material injected for a CT scan or nuclear medicine test. These contrast materials might interfere with your bone density test
If you think you may be pregnant, notify your doctor before getting a bone densitometry scan. You do not have to change your daily routine before this test. Eat, drink, and take any medications as you normally would. However, do not take calcium supplements or drugs that contain calcium, such as Tums, for 24 hours before your bone densitometry test
What you can expect during bone density test?
Bone density tests are usually done on bones that are most likely to break because of osteoporosis, including:
- Lower spine bones (lumbar vertebrae)
- The narrow neck of your thighbone (femur), next to your hip joint
- Bones in your forearm
If you have your bone density test done at a hospital, it'll probably be done on a central device, where you lie on a padded platform while a mechanical arm passes over your body. The amount of radiation you're exposed to is very low, much less than the amount emitted during a chest X-ray. The test usually takes about 10 minutes to complete
What to do after a bone densitometry scan?
Generally, you can resume usual activities immediately after your bone scan. The results of the scan should be available to your doctor within 24 hours after the test. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.