Bone Density Scan

What is a Bone Density Scan?

A bone density scan can tell your doctor if you have osteoporosis. That’s a disease where your bones are fragile and more likely to break. A bone density scan makes it easier for your doctor to tell how brittle your bones are.

A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.

Doctors use bone density testing to:

  • Identify decreases in bone density before you break a bone
  • Determine your risk of broken bones (fractures)
  • Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis
  • Monitor osteoporosis treatment

The higher your bone mineral content, the denser your bones are. And the denser your bones, the stronger they generally are and the less likely they are to break.

Talk with your doctor to find out if a bone density scan is right for you.

Reasons for a Bone Density Scan

Your doctor may recommend you get a bone density scan if you’ve:

  • Lost height — People who have lost at least 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) in height may have compression fractures in their spines. Osteoporosis can cause these fractures.
  • Fractured a bone — Fragility fractures occur when a bone becomes so fragile that it breaks much more easily than expected. Coughing or sneezing can cause fragility fractures.
  • Taken certain drugs — Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. This can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Received a transplant — People who have received an organ or bone marrow transplant are at higher risk of osteoporosis. This is partly because anti-rejection drugs also interfere with the bone-rebuilding process.
  • Had a drop in hormone levels — Hormone levels naturally drop after menopause. Cancer treatments can also cause a woman’s estrogen to drop. Lowered estrogen hormone levels can weaken your bones.
  • Turned 65 — When you turn 65 years old your doctor will add a bone density test to your regular health screenings