Your doctor probably has already explained to you that osteoporosis is a condition that results in loss of bone tissue, (bone mass). This process makes bones more fragile and a gradual weakening makes certain sites prone to fractures. Common sites for such fractures include the spine, hip and wrist.
Research indicates that measuring bone mass in different body regions can be helpful in predicting the likelihood of fractures in the future. There is no test that can predict with 100 percent certainty that a fracture will occur, but your doctor can use the information from a bone mass measurement (bone densitometry) to help reduce the risk of a fracture through diet, exercise and other treatment.
There are several techniques currently in use to measure bone density. One of the latest machines is called “DEXA” Bone Densitometer (“DEXA” stands for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry).
This type of densitometer can measure the bones of the spine, hip (femur) and other sites. It uses a very small amount of X-ray beam that “scans” across your spine or hip while you are lying down to produce a picture of the region, as well as an actual measurement of your bone density. Your physician uses this information in determining how to help reduce the risk of a fracture.
Preparing for a bone densitometry procedure
There is no special preparation required before a bone densitometry examination. However, you should not take calcium, mineral tablets or vitamins for 24 hours before the test.
The “scan” takes only a few minutes (per site) and is conducted while you are lying down. The technologist operating the machine may use pillow-like positioning devices so the bone regions being measured will be accurately scanned.
The procedure does not require removing any clothing, but any metal or dense objects near your hips (in pockets) or lower back must be removed, as they may interfere.
Even though the amount of X-ray energy used is very small, you should notify your doctor if you are pregnant. Also, if you’ve recently had certain specialized tests (CT scans or angiograms, for example) you’ll have to wait several days before scheduling a bone density study as these specialized studies may interfere with the results of your bone density results.
To schedule an exam
Call the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center at 650-696-4750.
* Doctor referral may be required.