Bone Density Testing Used to Diagnose Osteoporosis

Dr. Errol Rushovich - Endocrinology Center - Baltimore

The physician experts at The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy in Baltimore provide diagnosis and treatment for endocrine disorders, including bone health, diabetes and thyroid disorders. Endocrinologists specializing in bone health use results from bone density testing to evaluate risks for osteoporosis and provide effective treatment options.

What is a Bone Density Test/DEXA scan?

Bone density testing is performed to evaluate bone strength and risk for osteoporosis. The DEXA scan, the most common bone density test, is considered the gold standard in determining bone health.  The DEXA test is highly sensitive, comprehensive and very accurate in measuring bone mass.

The DEXA result is called a T-score. This T-score compares the patient’s bone mass with a population of young adult women with normal bone mass. A T-score above -1.0 is considered normal. Any T-score less than -1.0 indicates that the patient should consult with a bone health specialist about the best treatment options for osteoporosis based on personal risk factors.

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How is Bone Density Testing performed?

The most common bone density testing, the DEXA scan, takes about 10 to 20 minutes to perform. As the patient lies on the DEXA table, two x-ray beams, one with high energy and one with low energy, pass through the bone. The bone density is determined by the difference between the amounts of energy passed through the bone by the two beams.  To prepare for a DEXA scan, a patient should not take any calcium supplements for 24 hour prior to the DEXA scan.

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Who should receive Bone Density Testing?

Bone density testing should be performed when osteoporosis is suspected. Indications for having a bone density test include:

  • Losing height
  • Fracturing a bone
  • Taking certain medications, such as steroids
  • Having had an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Having low hormone levels