Bone density test

November 12, 2012

Bone density test

Bone density testing is an important method of determining the health of ones bones and the likely hood of developing bone conditions such as osteoporosis.

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test can be performed by a doctor to identify whether or not an individual is at risk of developing a bone condition such as osteoporosis. This is a condition that leads to a weakening of the bones. They will become fragile and porous, which makes it easier for fractures to occur. Using a bone density tests will show up any conditions in the early stages or before the onset. This allows doctor to prescribe medication that slows down bone loss and promotes the rebuilding of bones, therefore preventing such bone conditions.

How does the test work?

A bone density test, also sometimes referred to as a DXA scan uses x-ray technology to reveal the percentage or number of grams of important minerals such as calcium that are present in the bones. A doctor is able to study the produced results and assess whether or not the individual is likely to develop osteoporosis. A high mineral account is advantageous as it means that bones are less likely to easily succumb to fractures or breakages whereas a low mineral account suggests that bones are weak and fragile and therefore require some form of medication to help strengthen them.

The procedure

The bone density test is performed using a DXA machine. The patient is required to lie down on a padded table within the machine. The arm of the machine that is responsible for taking the images will pass slowly over the bones of the thighs and lower spine and will take between 10 and 30 minutes. Time varies according to the part of the body that is being focused on and the machinery being used. A peripheral bone density test may also be performed which focuses on the bones in the heel, wrist, finger and forearm. This kind of peripheral testing may be performed initially to identify whether or not the patient requires the full body central scanning procedure.

DXA machines are not designed for people with a weight over 300 pounds. Therefore individuals over this size are not able to use the machine to measure the bone density in their hips or spine. They can however use this method of bone density test on their forearm and are able to use the peripheral testing as it is normally used.


Doctors are able to take the results produced from the bone density test and compare them to those of an individual with healthy bone density. A score of -1 or higher indicated normal bones but anyone with a bone mass between -1 and -2.5 indicated low bone mass and high risk of osteoporosis. Anyone with a bone mass below 2.5 already has the condition.


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