Our bones weaken with age – especially for those at risk of osteoporosis, in which bones become more porous and fragile, increasing the likelihood of fracture.
A bone density scan can assess the strength your bones and the likelihood of stress fractures due to osteoporosis.
A simple, noninvasive test that can be completed in a few short minutes, a bone density scan, or densitometry, does not require any type of contrast material. A common way to measure bone density is a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, which can be performed with devices that measure bone density at the hip or spine, or smaller devices for extremities like the wrist, heel, or finger. A DEXA bone density scan emits much less radiation than a standard chest X-ray.
Why are Bone Density Scans Done?
Ideally, the scan is performed before there is any indication of osteoporosis to help predict if a person is at risk of developing the condition. When osteoporosis is diagnosed after you have broken a bone, the condition may have already significantly affected your bones.
The scan can identify a decrease in bone density, verify the presence of osteoporosis, and document progress made in osteoporosis treatment.
The test measures how many grams of calcium and other minerals are present in a particular segment of bone. The higher the level of calcium and other minerals, the stronger the bone is and less likely to fracture or break. The bones most commonly chosen to test are those in the spine, hips, and occasionally the forearm.
Reasons a Doctor May Order a Density Scan
Your doctor may order a bone density scan if osteoporosis is suspected.
For example, back pain or a loss in height of at least 1.6” may be due to compression fractures of the spine caused by osteoporosis. Fractures that occur too easily – such as after sneezing or coughing – is a sign of osteoporosis.
Anyone who has been on a course of steroids like prednisone, which interferes with the bone-renewal process, are susceptible to osteoporosis – as are those who have received an organ transplant because immunosuppressive drugs also interfere with the bone-rebuilding process.
When a woman goes through menopause or a man goes through andropause, the resulting drop in sex hormone levels can cause a weakening of bone.
Interpreting Bone Density Scan Results
The test results from a bone density scan come in the form of two scores: your T score and Z score.
Your T score compares your bone density to peak bone mass (such as what is normal for a young adult of the same gender). Scores like a -1 or higher indicate normal bone density. A score between -1.1 and -2.4 signifies low bone mass, called osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis), while a score of -2.5 or less signifies osteoporosis.
Your Z score compares your bone density to the average for your age, size, and gender. Any result that falls significantly outside the average range may indicate further testing is needed.
The risks of osteoporosis are real and can be treated with supplements and other measures to prevent against accidental bone breaks and more. Contact Independent Imaging in South Florida to schedule your DEXA bone density scan. Call (561) 795-5558 or request your appointment now.