Bone Density Scan

Is It Necessary?

By: - Health & Fitness - April 29, 2011
bone density scan

A bone density scan is known in medical terms as a densitometry or a DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan. Its purpose as its name suggests is to measure the thickness or density of bones in other words the bone mineral density (BMD). The higher your bone mineral content the denser your bones are and thus the stronger and less likely to break. The bone density test uses x-rays to measure bone loss by measuring how many grams of bone minerals like calcium are packed into a segment of bone. It is most often performed on the lower spine and the hips, the whole body may also be scanned at times pertaining to the situation.

The bone density scan is extremely important for its usage in detecting osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a medical condition entailing that bones are less dense than normal which increase the risk of fractures or breakage. This condition results in a risk of fracture with even minor trauma like a fall from standing height or in extreme cases even a cough or a sneeze. Women compared to men are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis. Common factors that may result in this condition include old age, a family history of osteoporosis, smoking, alcohol, a small and thin stature, and the use of certain kinds of medication like steroids.

Before this technology was available osteoporosis could only be detected after a bone broke, and by the time that occurred it was a sign that the bones were quite weak and it might make treatment more difficult and full of complications. The bone density scan now makes it possible to predict the risk of osteoporosis early on and enable preventive treatment before the condition could get serious. Doctors use the bone density test to identify decreases in bone density, to determine a person’s risk of fractures, to confirm a diagnosis of the existence of osteoporosis if broken bones have been experienced, or to effectively monitor an osteoporosis treatment. Bone density tests are generally recommended in the following cases:

For women aged 65 or older
For post menopausal women under age 65
For men aged 70 and over
For men between the ages 50 to 70 if they display some factors of osteoporosis
For a person over 50 who has experienced a fracture
For post menopausal women who have stopped hormone therapy or estrogen therapy

The bone density test however has some limitations. For instance although it is quite accurate in measuring bone density it may not be able to predict whether a person will experience a fracture or not. Its capabilities are also limited if the patients have a spinal deformity or patients who have had spinal surgeries previously. However that being said it is still an invaluable tool in helping people suffering from osteoporosis and enabling them in being diagnosed and treated on time.