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Bone Density Testing, Osteoporosis, DEXA

DEXA bone densitometry is used most often to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women during perimenopause and menopause. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. The DEXA test can also assess your risk for developing fractures. If your bone density is found to be low, you and Dr. Erhard can work together on a treatment plan to help prevent fractures before they occur. DEXA is also effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis or for other conditions that cause bone loss.

  • Osteoporosis is estimated to cause 90% of all hip and fractures in elderly woman due to low bone density.
  • DEXA Scans or Bone Density Testing is recommended for women under the age 65 with risk fractures and for all women over the age 65 to predict fracture risk.
  • Once risk is assessed, only then can treatment be prescribed
Bone Density testing is recommended if you:
  • Are a post-menopausal woman and not taking estrogen. 
  • Woman age 60 or older who have risk factors for developing osteoporosis. 
  • Have a personal or maternal history of hip fracture or smoking. 
  • Are a post-menopausal woman who is tall (over 5 feet 7 inches) or thin (less than 125 pounds). 
  • Use medications that are known to cause bone loss, including corticosteroids such as Prednisone, various anti-seizure medications such as Dilantin and certain barbiturates or high-dose thyroid replacement drugs. 
  • Have type 1 (formerly called juvenile or insulin-dependent) diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or a family history of osteoporosis. 
  • Have high bone turnover, which shows up in the form of excessive collagen in urine samples. 
  • Have a thyroid condition, such as hyperthyroidism. 
  • Have experienced a fracture after only mild trauma. 
  • Have had x-ray evidence of vertebral fracture or other signs of osteoporosis. 
  • Have not had a baseline DEXA Scan in the past 3 years after the age of 30.
What is Bone Densitometry / Dexa Scan?

To accurately detect osteoporosis, Dr. Erhard will commonly send her patients to CDI (Centers for Diagnostic Imaging) to receive a baseline DEXA bone densitometry to measure bone mineral density (BMD). DEXA is a quick, painless procedure for measuring bone loss. Measurement of the lower spine and hips are most often done.

What are some common uses of this procedure?

DEXA bone densitometry is commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing bones to thin, become more fragile and more likely to break.

The DEXA test can also assess your risk for developing fractures and is effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that can cause bone loss.

How should I prepare for this procedure?

  • Refrain from taking calcium supplements for at least 24 hours beforehand.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and avoid garments that have zippers, belts or buttons made of metal.
  • Let your technologist know if you’ve recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT or radioisotope scan.
  • Let your technologist know if there is a possibility you are pregnant.
What should I expect during this exam?
  • Depending on the equipment used and the parts of the body being examined, the test takes between 10 and 30 minutes.
  • You may be asked to undress and put on a gown.
  • You'll lie on a padded table with an x-ray generator below and a detector (an imaging device) above. It is important that you remain as still as possible during the procedure to ensure a clear and useful image.

When evaluating bone loss in the spine and hip where most osteoporosis-related fractures happen:

  • Spine: During an examination of the spine, your legs will be supported on a padded box to flatten your pelvis and lower (lumbar) spine.
  • Hip: The technologist will place your foot in a brace that rotates the hip inward.
  • The detector is scanned over the area, generating images on a computer monitor

 

What will I experience during this exam?

 
DEXA bone densitometry is a simple, painless and non-invasive procedure. Once on the examination table, you may be asked to remain still and to hold an awkward position for a short period of time while the machine takes measurements.

Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

The results of a DEXA bone density exam are interpreted by a radiologist and forwarded to Dr. Erhard. Your test results will be in the form of two scores:

T score - This number shows the amount of bone you have compared to a young adult of the same gender with peak bone mass. A score above -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 is classified as osteopenia, the first stage of bone loss. A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis. It is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture.

Z score - This number reflects the amount of bone you have compared to other people in your age group and of the same size and gender. If it is unusually high or low, it may indicate a need for further medical testing.