Heel ultrasound is a method for assessment of bone quality by measuring speed of sound and absorption of sound energy in a heel bone. The whole procedure takes 5-6 minutes and is without any known risks. There is no need for any particular preparation for this test. Results of the test are used to determine who needs a more accurate and precise test called DEXA (see below). If results are normal there is no need for further testing, but every abnormal test result needs to be confirmed by DEXA. There is no radiation involved in performance of this test.
DEXA stands for dual x-ray absorptiometry and is accepted today as a best way to assess density of bones. This measurement involves a shining of the very weak x-ray beam through the body and measurement of its absorption in bones. Amount of radiation is very low (much less than ordinary x-rays). Most common sites of measurement are hips and spine (because most of the fractures occur at these locations) but any bone may be measured. Each procedure takes 4-5 minutes. The patient needs to remove any material that may absorb x-rays (best is to change in the hospital gown). Results show density of the bone. If low the physician will run more tests to determine what is the reason for this and prescribe the best treatment.