Womens Heart Disease

Bone Density Scan

Determines bone density and calcium levels and can detect signs of osteoporosis. Early treatment of osteoporosis can reverse or slow down the disease.
$195


Bone Density Scan Details

A bone density scan measures how much calcium and other types of minerals are present in a section of your bone. Your health care provider uses this test, along with other risk factors, to predict your risk of bone fractures in the future. Bone fracture risk is highest in people with osteoporosis.

While you are lying on a cushioned table, a scanner passes over your body. Typically, the machine takes x-rays of your lower spine and hip. This is called a central DEXA scan. In most cases you won't need to undress.

Guidelines recommend screening for those who are thought to be at increased risk for osteoporosis:

  • Women over age 65 and men over age 70
  • Women under age 65 and men ages 50 - 70 who have risk factors such as:
    • A fracture in any man or woman over age 50
    • Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
    • Early menopause (either from natural causes or surgery)
    • History of hormone treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer
    • Significant loss of height (See: Compression fractures of the back)
    • Smoking
    • Strong family history of osteoporosis
    • Taking corticosteroid medications (prednisone, methylprednisolone) every day for more than 3 months
    • Three or more drinks of alcohol per day on most days
If you are being treated for osteoporosis, BMD testing can help your health care provider monitor your response to the treatment.

The results are used as part of the FRAX scoring system, which considers bone density test results with other fracture risk factors. From this score, you and your doctor can determine whether you might need medication to treat the osteoporosis.

The results of your test are usually reported as a "T score" and "Z score."

  • The T score compares your bone density with that of healthy young women.
  • The Z score compares your bone density with that of other people of your age, gender, and race.
In either score, a negative number means you have thinner bones than the standard. The more negative the number, the higher your risk of a bone fracture.

A T score is within the normal range if it is -1.0 or above.

Bone mineral density testing does not diagnose fractures. However, along with other risk factors you may have, it helps predict your risk of having a bone fracture in the future. Your doctor will help you understand the results.

  • A T score between -1 and -2.5 indicates the beginning of bone loss (osteopenia).
  • A T score below -2.5 indicates osteoporosis.
Adapted from Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia