Have you recently broken a bone? Are you an older adult? If yes, you must consult your primary care physician about getting a bone density test. The bone density mineral test is conducted using X-rays to measure the amount of minerals in your bones and your chances of breaking a bone. The test is also referred to as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
Your primary care doctor may perform a bone density scan if they suspect that your bones are becoming weaker or you need preventative screening. This test determines your risk of developing osteoporosis and helps your primary physician decide the best treatment to ensure your bones remain healthy and strong.
Osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease, which causes your bone tissue to become thin and week over time and leads to disabling fractures. If identified early, it can be easily treated and prevent potential fractures. Bone density scans also help the doctors to monitor the progress of osteoporosis treatment.
What is the Purpose of a Bone Density Test?
It is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. The lower your bone mineral content, the greater your chances of breaking a bone. A bone density scan can help your primary care physicians to:
- Determine your risks of broken bones
- Identify if you have osteoporosis before you break a bone
- Monitor your bone density improvements and effects of an osteoporosis medicine
- Check if you have osteoporosis after breaking a bone
Who Should Have a Bone Density Test?
Although the risk of osteoporosis is higher among older adults, especially women, anyone can get osteoporosis. A bone density scan should be a part of your annual physical. Regardless of your age and sex, your primary doctor may recommend taking a preventative screening for bone mineral density if you have any of the following risk factors.
- Had a drop in hormone levels
- Recently fractured a bone
- Significant height loss
- A postmenopausal woman under age 65 with risk factors
- A man of age 50 or older with risk factors
- Back pain without any reason
- Early menopause
- An eating disorder that results in low body weight
- Chronic kidney disease
- Broken a bone after age 50
- A man of age 70 or a woman of 65 and above
- A family history of osteoporosis
- A fragility fracture
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Long-term intake of high-risk medications
- Thyroid problem
How to Perform a Bone Density Scan?
Bone density tests are easy, painless, and require little preparation. To prepare for a test, you should avoid wearing clothes with metal zippers, buttons, or belts as well as avoid taking calcium supplements for 24 hours before the exam.
The tests are usually done on bones that are most likely to break due to osteoporosis. There are two types of bone density scans performed by general practitioners.
Central DXA – This test is done to screen bone density at your hip and spine bones. It is done on a central device where you lie down on a padded platform while a mechanical arm passes over your body. Your body would be exposed to a very low amount of radiations. The x-ray machine comes up with an image of your skeleton. The test lasts for about 10 minutes. The result is expected to be provided in a few days.
Peripheral DXA – In this test, a portable device is used to measure bone density at the far ends of your skeleton like wrist, heel or finger. This test is less expensive and accessible as compared to central DXA test. It is also used for people who cannot get the central DXA test because of weight limits.
What Does the Test Results Mean?
Your primary physician will examine your bone density test results and report in two scores: T-score and Z-score.
T-score – It compares your current bone density with what is expected in a healthy adult of your gender. T-score is the number of units that indicates if your bone density is normal, above or below the average. A score of 0 is considered normal.
- -1 and above: Bone density is considered normal
- -1 to 2.5: Low bone density and may lead to osteoporosis
- -2.5 and above: You likely have osteoporosis
Z-score – It compares your bone density score to what is expected normal for someone of your age, gender, height, and other demographics. Any significant deviations in your Z-score mean something other than aging is causing abnormal bone loss.
Osteoporosis can cause injuries that may damage the quality of your life. Whether you are taking medications or don’t have osteoporosis, don’t risk broken bones. Contact Artisans of Medicine today! From performing bone density scans to discussing the results and offering treatment plans, our primary physicians in Brooklyn, NYC can help safeguard your health so that you can continue doing the things you like the most.