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All You Need To Know About Bone Density Test

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis you would have gone through a bone density test. Bone density test also called bone mineral density test (BMD) is a common test which is done to determine the strength of the bones and the possibility of fracture in people who are at a risk of osteoporosis [1] . Osteoporosis is a disorder that is characterized by weak and fragile bones.

Why A Bone Density Test Is Done? [2]

The higher the mineral content in your bones, the denser the bones are and this makes your bones stronger and are less likely to break.

Bone density test is done to identify a decrease in bone density before you break your bone, helps determine the risk of bone fractures and confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Bone density test is also done when you have had a drop in hormone levels, received a transplant or have taken certain drugs.

The test results will help the doctor assess how to treat or prevent bone loss and fractures in the case of osteoporosis.

Types Of Bone Density Tests

  • DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) - It measures the hip, spine and the entire body. This test is considered more useful and reliable for checking bone density [3] .
  • QCT (quantitative computed tomography) - This test measures the spine [4] .

Who Should Take A Bone Density Test

Bone density tests are recommended for the following people:

  • Women who are above 65 years of age.
  • Younger women who have a higher risk of fracture for their age.
  • Post-menopausal women above 50 years of age.
  • Men who are above 50 years of age.

How Is A Bone Density Test Conducted?

A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other minerals are present in the bones, especially in the lower spine bones, forearm bones and the bones in the narrow neck of the thigh bone.

During the bone density test, you will be asked to lie down on a padded table while a mechanical arm passes over your body. The imager emits radiation which is very low. A small machine is there to measure the bone density in the bones, such as those in the skeleton, wrist, heel and finger.

The test is easy, fast and painless and it usually takes 10 to 30 minutes.

What Does A Bone Density Test Result Signify?

The results of the bone density test are based on a T score and Z score. Your T score compares the bone density with a healthy young woman [5] .

Here's what T score means:

  • -1 and above is considered normal
  • Between -1 and -2.5 it's a sign of osteopenia, a condition in which your bones are weaker than normal and may lead to osteoporosis
  • - 2.5 and below is a sign of osteoporosis.

Z score compares your bone density with other people of the same sex, race and age. If the z score is lower -2.0 the greater the degree of bone loss [6] .

How Often Should You Get A Bone Density Test Done

If you don't have osteoporosis, it is recommended to get a bone density test done every 2 years, especially for women during or after menopause.

If you are suffering from osteoporosis, get a bone density test done every 1 to 2 years.

View Article References
  1. [1] Lewiecki, E. M., & Borges, J. L. C. (2006). Bone density testing in clinical practice.Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia,50(4), 586-595.
  2. [2] Marci, C. D., Viechnicki, M. B., & Greenspan, S. L. (2000). Bone mineral densitometry substantially influences health-related behaviors of postmenopausal women.Calcified tissue international,66(2), 113-118.
  3. [3] Laskey, M. A. (1996). Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and body composition.Nutrition,12(1), 45-51.
  4. [4] Adams, J. E. (2009). Quantitative computed tomography.European journal of radiology,71(3), 415-424.
  5. [5] Gourlay, M. L., Fine, J. P., Preisser, J. S., May, R. C., Li, C., Lui, L. Y., … Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group (2012). Bone-density testing interval and transition to osteoporosis in older women.The New England journal of medicine,366(3), 225–233.
  6. [6] Zhou, W., Langsetmo, L., Berger, C., Adachi, J. D., Papaioannou, A., Ioannidis, G., … CaMos Research Group (2010). Normative bone mineral density z-scores for Canadians aged 16 to 24 years: the Canadian Multicenter Osteoporosis Study.Journal of clinical densitometry : the official journal of the International Society for Clinical Densitometry,13(3), 267–276.
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