What is a Bone Mineral Density Test – and how can it prevent fractures?

Health Must Reads
Bone Mineral Density Test

A bone mineral density test, commonly called a DEXA/DXA scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) is a painless, non-invasive test that captures images of the insides of your bones, particularly your spine and hip bone, to measure bone health and bone loss.

A DEXA scan is the best way to diagnose osteoporosis – a condition where your bones become less dense and more fragile, exposing you to the risk of fractures.

But first, how does a DEXA machine work?

The DEXA scanner uses two low-dose X-ray beams to capture the density profile of your bones.

The test is completely painless – just like an X-ray, and takes around 10-20 minutes.

To prepare for a DEXA scan you will be asked to:

● Not take any vitamin/mineral/calcium supplements 24 hours prior to your test

● Change into the patient gown, and remove all metallic, plastic objects

● Lay still on the scan bed, as the machine moves above your body

Who needs a DEXA scan?

Generally, your doctor may prescribe a DEXA scan if you’re above a certain age, and more so if you’re a woman. That’s because women tend to lose more bone density as they age, and they are particularly vulnerable to this bone loss.

However, doctors may also recommend a DEXA scan for younger patients, taking other factors into consideration such as:

● A history of fractures as an adult, or a history of fractures among immediate family members

● Smoking

● Consumption of certain medications including steroids, thyroid medicines, anti-seizure medication

● A history of diabetes, or other conditions like liver, kidney disorders, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

● Transplant recipients

● Height loss of an inch or more

If you’re on osteoporosis medication, you may be advised to take the DXA test once every year.

Why is a Bone Mineral Density test important?

Fractures can be painful – and if you’re older, it can also be fatal. Recent studies have demonstrated that hip fractures, in older people especially, dramatically increase the risk of death and other severe health conditions. And according to this Stanford article, osteoporosis is the leading cause of hip fractures. While this information is not meant to scare you, and should be viewed objectively, it’s wise to be vigilant and take proactive steps to ensure better health. As we all know, preventing a problem is much better than having to fix it – so a DEXA test, taken before problems strike, can help diagnose your bone health and your risk or stage of osteoporosis, allowing you to take the necessary health measures to avoid fractures and other illnesses.

How do you interpret your test results?

When you get your DEXA scan, you’ll see a T-score. The T-score shows where your bone density stands in comparison to a healthy young woman. A Z-score is also given, which compares your bone density to that of people of the same age, gender and race.

An important point to remember? The lower your T-score or Z-score, the lower your bone density.

A T-Score of -1.0 is above, like -0.9, 0.9, means you have normal bone density.

A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 means you have osteopenia – a condition where your bone mineral density is lower than normal, and which is often considered to be a precursor for osteoporosis.

If your T-score is -2.5 or below, you have osteoporosis.

If you have osteopenia, or osteoporosis, what next?

Your doctor will prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements, and may check your potassium, magnesium and vitamin K levels, to see if you need other supplements too.

Talk to your GP for more guidance.

And finally, how do you choose the right DEXA scan centre?

Always go for a reputed centre with the latest technology, where the radiologists come highly recommended. Star Imaging houses advanced DEXA scanners that quickly and accurately measure bone density. Moreover, our radiologists are experts in their field, who are trusted by leading doctors in the country. Being super-specialized, they ensure a high level of accuracy in interpreting reports, while controlling and minimizing the radiation dose in scans.

About Star Imaging

For more information on DEXA/DXA scans, call us at 020 4132 2222.
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