Bone Density Screening

Bone Density Accent Image

Bone density screening determines if you have osteoporosis — a disorder characterized by bones that are more fragile and more likely to break.

The 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 in the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.

Bone Density Screening Q & A

What Is a Bone Density Test?

A bone density test is called a DXA or DEXA 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 the forearm. This test helps identify those at risk of having osteoporosis.

How Long Does A Bone Density Test Take?

The test usually takes less than 30 minutes.

What Information Does the Test Provide?

For postmenopausal women a T-score is reported. A T-score is a measure of bone mineral density as compared to a young adult. Your T-score has a diagnostic range.

  • T-scores of -1.0 and above are considered normal
  • T-scores of -1.1 to -2.4 are considered to be low bone mass or osteopenia
  • T-scores of -2.5 and lower are considered to be osteoporosis

For premenopausal women, a Z-score is reported. Z-scores compare your scores with others of your gender, ethnicity and age. A Z-score of -2.0 is considered below the normal range.

What Are Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?

  • Being female
  • Asian or Caucasian ethnicity
  • Long term oral glucocorticoid medication use (prednisone)
  • Menopausal or postmenopausal
  • Inactivity
  • Small body build
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use of more than 2 drinks per day
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Fragility fracture
  • Excessive exercise resulting in loss of menstrual periods
  • Age
  • People with a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Bowel diseases