A bone density test is called a DXA or DEXA scan. This is not the same as a bone scan. A bone density test uses a small amount of x-ray to measure the amount of mineral in the bones of your lower back, hip or sometimes the forearm.
A bone density test tells your health care provider how much mineral you have in your bones. This measurement determines your T-score.
-1.0 or above is normal
Between -1.0 to -2.5 is considered osteopenia (low bone mass)
-2.5 or below is reported as osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the most common skeletal disorder. It is characterized by bone loss that can result in low impact fractures. Nearly 50% of women and 25% of men over the age of 50 years will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime. The bone density test provides information to your physician that can help to alleviate long term effects of osteoporosis.
Signs of osteoporosis include back pain, height loss and curving of the upper back. If you have these signs or have had a low impact fracture, you should talk to your health care provider.A low impact fracture is one that occurs when falling from sitting or standing height and typically involves the hip, spine or forearm.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone at any age. It is important that you discuss your risk factors with your health care provider to determine the age that is right for you to have a bone density test. Some of the risk factors include: being female, Asian or Caucasian ethnicity, using glucocorticoids (steroids), menopausal or postmenopausal, inactivity, small body build, smoking, alcohol use of more than 2 drinks per day, family history of osteoporosis and certain medical conditions. There needs to be a medically necessary reason for doing a bone density test. Talk to your health care provider about your risk factors and when you should have a bone density test. Often, insurance plans will provide guidelines about when and how often a bone density test can be done. Check with your insurance company about your coverage.
How is a bone density test done
You will lie on your back on a padded table wearing your street clothes or a patient gown. The machine does all the work, moving back and forth as it measures your bone density. The machine is very open and does not feel “closed in.” You will not be given any injections or medications for this test.