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Diseases & Conditions

Osteoporosis Early Diagnosis

The first step toward preserving your independence

Osteoporosis can rob you of your independence

Osteoporosis and associated fractures can rob you of your mobility and your independence. Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces the strength of your bones, causing them to become brittle and prone to fractures. Approximately 54% of women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and are at risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture. A woman’s risk of hip fracture alone is equal to the combined risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer – and up to 24% of women who suffer hip fractures die within one year of the fracture.

A bone density test can provide the information your doctor needs

Bone mineral density (BMD) tests use small amounts of radiation to determine the density of the spine, hip, wrist, and other skeletal sites. Your results are compared with the average BMD of healthy young adults of your sex. This information can help your doctor diagnose osteoporosis or assess your risk for developing osteoporosis in the future.

Reasons for BMD testing

Your doctor may recommend a BMD test to:

  • Help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
  • Detect low bone mass before osteoporosis develops
  • Monitor the effects of treatment on bone density over time (e.g., at intervals of at least 12 to 24 months)

Physicians recommend BMD testing for many different types of patients, including postmenopausal women with risk factors for osteoporosis who have never been on therapy for osteoporosis, patients taking steroid medication, patients with hyperthyroidism, and patients who have had a fracture in which osteoporosis is suspected.

Early diagnosis can make a difference in your life

With the results of your BMD test, you and your doctor can determine what lifestyle changes or treatment measures should be taken, or if additional tests are appropriate. If osteoporosis is diagnosed, treatments are available that can increase bone density and reduce the risk of fracture.

How is a bone density test done?

Depending on the type of equipment your doctor selects to measure your bone density, you may be asked to lie on a table while a movable arm passes over the area to be tested (for example, the arms, spine or hips). Or, you may simply place your forearm into another type of instrument while you remain seated. Another technology uses a standard X-ray machine and involves only the fingers of one hand. All of the technologies are accurate, simple, painless and noninvasive, and all tests are completed in a short period of time.

Is a bone density test the same as a bone scan?

No. A "bone scan is" a procedure requiring an injection of radioactive material. A bone density test is faster and requires no special preparatory drinks, medications, or injections.

How much radiation will I be exposed to?

In most cases, your radiation exposure will be a fraction of what you would receive from a standard chest X-ray. You may also be interested to know that the radiation exposure is actually about the same as you would experience on a cross-country airline flight. As with any medical procedure, be sure to inform your physician if you are pregnant.

How long does the test take?

Tests of areas commonly measured, such as the spine, forearm, or hip, can take 2 to 5 minutes each.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothing, preferably without metal buttons, buckles, or zippers.

If you are postmenopausal, ask your doctor if a bone density test would be of value to you
Women who are postmenopausal are at risk for osteoporosis. The presence of any one of these factors can add to your risk:

  • Age (bone loss increases with advancing age)
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Thin or small build
  • Previous fracture
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Early menopause (before age 45)
  • Smoking
  • Caucasian/Asian race*
  • Certain medications (including steroids and thyroid hormone)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Inadequate calcium intake

*Although these races are at increased risk, all races and ethnicities are at risk for osteoporosis.

NOTE: You may have none of these risk factors and still be at risk for osteoporosis. Some authorities believe that the presence of any of these factors increases the risk of osteoporosis. However, even if you have none of these factors, you may still have osteoporosis – only a bone density test can provide the information your doctor needs to help make a diagnosis.

To schedule a Bone Density appointment, please call 216.444.5632.