Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Scans

Bone Density

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones and can result in painful fractures or collapsing back vertebrae. Osteoporosis risk factors include just being female but also aging, low body weight, low oestrogen levels as seen in menopause, certain medications and even smoking.

Testing your bone density

Current bone health

Adequate calcium and vitamin D

DXA Scan Results

For the final results of your scan, you will get a T-score. It compares your bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old. This age represents the time when human bones are at their strongest. Weaker bones will be represented by a lower score:

  • T-score of -1.0 or above = normal bone density
  • T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 = low bone density, or osteopenia
  • T-score of -2.5 or lower = osteoporosis

The second type of score is a Z-score. It compares your bone density to a typical density for a person of your same age and body size.

Frequently Asked Questions

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones and can result in painful fractures or collapsing back vertebrae. Osteoporosis risk factors include just being female but also aging, low body weight, low oestrogen levels as seen in menopause, certain medications and even smoking

Testing your bone density (how healthy your bones are) is the only way to know if you suffer from Osteoporosis.
The most popular used scan is called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA).
This scan determines your current bone health as well as your risk of developing fracture due to underlying Osteoporosis.
The DEXA scan focuses on two important areas: the hips and the lower spine. If we cannot test these areas, we will scan the forearm with similar results. This result will give us a good idea of whether you are likely to suffer from fractures in these or other bones in your body.

South African guidelines recommend that all adults over the age of 60 have a screening Bone Mineral Density test done every three years. Depending on the results of this scan, Osteoporosis could be diagnosed. For those under the age of 60 years, your doctor will complete a focused history and physical exam to determine whether the DEXA scan will be necessary. Any other medical problem that requires a DEXA scan will result in your doctor referring you for this test.

The DEXA scanner is a device that produces two X-ray beams. One is higher energy, and the other is lower energy. The device measures the number of X-rays that pass through the bone from each beam. The number will vary depending on how dense or strong the bone is.

The DEXA scan generally takes 15 minutes. You will not feel anything, and the radiation exposure during the scan is extremely low and safe. There is no tunnel or ring involved like with some other types of scans, like MRIs or CT scans. Instead, you will lie on an open table and a flat panel will pass over parts of your body.

Prevention includes adequate calcium and vitamin D intake combined with good exercise. Treatment includes several types of osteoporosis medications.

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