Bone Density, often referred to as Bone Mineral Density, is a type of medical imaging to measure the bone mineral densities in certain areas of the body. The bone density exam is ordered on patients whom are at risk for osteoporosis or those whom are already diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. During the test, the patient will lay on the table as the arm of the machine moves up and down. The patient will experience little to no discomfort and the machine utilizes low energy radiation. The bones most commonly tested are located in the lower spine (lumbar vertebrae), the narrow neck of the thighbone (femur) and bones in the forearm. If a prior bone density exam has been performed it is important to provide that information for comparison purposes by the radiologist. It is recommended that you check with your insurance carrier on coverage of the exam prior to your appointment. The allotted time for the scan is 30 minutes. This procedure may require specific Exam Preparations which can be reviewed before your bone density appointment.
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.
- Taken certain drugs. 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 a 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.