Bone Density

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone density decreases, making bones brittle and prone to fractures. It is estimated that at age 50, a woman has nearly a 40% chance of developing an osteoporotic fracture during her remaining lifetime. A woman’s lifetime risk of hip fracture alone is equal to the combined risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer and up to 20% more women who suffer hip fractures die within one year of the fracture than those of a similar age who haven’t suffered a hip fracture. It is therefore important to identify those women who are at risk for developing osteoporosis.

Procedure Description

DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) is the most accurate and advanced test available for measuring bone density (strength). Its results are reproducible, therefore allowing measurements to be taken over time showing progression of disease or improvement in bone density due to treatment. Minimal radiation (less than 1/20 of a chest x-ray) is used to determine the bone density of the spine, hip or wrist. A DEXA test is more sensitive than ordinary x-rays, more accurate than heel measurements and can diagnose bone loss at an earlier stage. Safe and painless, the 10 minute DEXA scan is the most reliable test to determine even the earliest stages of bone loss associated with osteoporosis.

Facts

More than 25 million Americans have osteoporosis.
Four out of five of them are women.
Osteoporosis is the cause of over 1.3 million fractures annually, including more than 500,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 hip fractures, and 240,000 wrist fractures.
The direct medical costs of osteoporosis exceed $10 billion annually in the U.S.

 

Additional Resources

National Osteoporosis Foundation

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Osteoporosis?

    Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, most often occur in the hip, spine and wrist. Prevention and early treatment have a major role in reducing the risk of fractures from osteoporosis.

    Unfortunately, osteoporosis is not often detected until a fracture occurs. These fractures can result in pain, height loss, possibly even permanent disability and dependence. There are a number of factors known to increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • How is Bone Density Measured?

    Bone mass can be measured using a simple, painless procedure called bone densitometry. This procedure uses a small amount of radiation to determine the bone density of the spine or hip. This test can also be used at intervals to determine the rate of bone loss.

  • How is the Bone Density Exam Done?

    During the exam, you will be asked to lie on the table and breathe normally. A scanner will pass over your spine or hip. As the scanner moves, a dual beam of low energy x-ray passes through your body. This produces a very accurate measurement of your bone density. Most exams take about 20 minutes.

 

Refrain from taking calcium supplements 24 hours prior to the test.

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