We may stop growing, but our bones don't stop changing. Our bodies replace old bone tissue with new bone to stay strong. But as we get older and wiser, our bodies are less efficient at this regeneration process. This means you can lose bone faster than you build it.
When your bone density gets very low, it's called osteoporosis. It's often called a “silent disease" because you don't realize you have it until you break or fracture a bone.
When you fracture a bone, especially the hip or spine, those glory years of retirement are, well, less glorious. It's harder to get around, see friends, travel or shop for your grandkids.
A bone density scan, or DEXA screening, is a way to be proactive about your bone health. It tells you if you have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it. With this information, you can take steps to improve your bone health. Things like weight-bearing exercise or taking supplements or medications can help.
Who Should Get a Bone Density Scan, or DEXA Test?
The country's top medical organizations recommend women over age 65 go for bone density scans to check for osteoporosis. Some men, as well as younger women, may also benefit from the test if they have extra risk factors like:
Taking certain medications
How healthily you eat
Whether you smoke or drink heavily
Your doctor can help you decide if you should get a bone density scan.
What Is a Bone Density Scan?
A bone density scan uses low-dose x-rays to measure bone density. It uses less radiation than you're exposed to naturally from the sun in a day, so it's safe.
The scanner sends two radiation beams – one that's absorbed by hard bone tissue and another that's absorbed by soft tissue. By comparing the two, doctors can determine bone density.
Why Choose Luminis Health Imaging for Your Bone Density Test
Luminis Health Imaging is a leader in introducing new imaging technology and practices in Maryland, and we're a champion for lower-radiation imaging. We're laser-focused not just on imaging safety and quality, but also providing an amazing patient experience.
We offer an easy online system so you can pick the time slot that works best with your busy schedule. And you can access all your Luminis Health Imaging test results through your online MyChart profile. We want to help you and your health providers follow your health in a thoughtful, big-picture way.
Speaking of convenience, we perform a FRAX® questionnaire at the same time as your bone density scan. FRAX® is a tool that gives you a score based on your fracture risk.
To calculate your FRAX® score, we'll ask you questions about your medical history, alcohol intake, whether you smoke and so on. We input your answers into the tool – as well as your bone density scan results – and you'll get a handy score. This helps you and your doctor decide on any lifestyle changes, supplements or medications you might need.
What To Expect at Your Bone Density Test
You don't have to worry about changing your plans before or after your test – there's no special diet or restrictions. Just show up! We recommend you arrive 15 minutes before the test to give you time to find our diagnostic imaging center and register.
You'll put on a hospital gown in one of our changing rooms (we have lockers for your belongings). Then you'll lie down on the examining table. An imaging arm, about a foot wide, slides over your hips and legs. The technologist may prop up your knees or feet to position your hip bones in the right spot for the machine.
The test takes about 10 minutes. You don't have to worry about claustrophobia because it's not in an enclosed area. And you'll be glad to know the test is painless.
As early as the next day, you'll be able to see your test results, including your FRAX® score in your MyChart account. (It's easy to set up a free account if you don't have one). We'll also send your results to your provider.
If your FRAX® score is good, your doctor might wait to discuss it at your next routine appointment. If your FRAX® score is high, your doctor might want to set up an earlier call or visit.