Non-invasive and painless, bone density tests measure the strength of your bones. Learn about the science, the benefits, and the experience.
What is a bone density test?
A bone-density test is a type of enhanced x-ray called dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A DXA (pronounced “dexa”) scan measures the mineral content of your bones, most commonly at the spine or hip, for the purposes of diagnosing and treating osteoporosis—a disorder that renders bones more fragile and likely to break.
Your bone density test results are reported using T-scores and Z-scores, and they indicate whether your bone density is higher or lower than average. This is then used to calculate your risk of breaking a bone.
Your doctor may recommend a bone density test if: you’ve lost over an inch of height, use certain medications, have suffered a fracture after only a minor injury, or have a family history of osteoporosis. This is a test for both men and woman, though postmenopausal women fall into a higher risk bracket and should get tested regularly.
What should I expect from this test?
This test is completely non-invasive, fast, and usually scheduled to coincide with your mammogram screening.
While DXA scans are not radiation-free, your exposure is much less than what you’d receive from, say, even a routine chest X-ray. However, please let your healthcare provider know if you’ve recently had a barium, contrast CT, or nuclear medicine test, as previous use of contrast materials could interfere with your results.
On the day of your exam, you may eat and drink normally—but please do not take any multivitamin or mineral supplements (particularly calcium) that morning. And though you should dress comfortably, you may need to remove any metal from your clothing or body.
Most likely you’ll be able to leave your clothing on and lay back comfortably on a large, flat, padded platform, while a mechanical arm passes over your body.
Your DXA scan should take only about 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, our technicians will be there to answer any questions or concerns. Simply let us know if we can do anything to make you feel more comfortable.
That’s it! After your scan you’ll be on your way. We’ll review your test, and on the same day send it over to your doctor—who will be in touch with you directly with the results.