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Bone Density Testing

What is Bone Density Testing?

Bone density testing can diagnose osteoporosis. Also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), or DEXA scan, the bone density test measures the thickness and strength of bones in your spine and hips. By looking at the results and risk factors, your risk for fracture can be determined.

This quick and painless test is performed on a machine called a bone densitometer and is very similar to having an X-ray performed while lying down. While radiation is involved, the amounts are less than a mammogram.

When is a DEXA Scan Recommended?

Below are reasons to have a DEXA scan:

  • To detect low bone density and osteoporosis before a bone fracture occurs
  • To establish a baseline for perimenopausal women who will soon lose the bone protective properties of estrogen due to menopause, especially when other risk factors are present
  • To determine the rate of bone loss when the test is repeated over time
  • To monitor the effects of treatment over time and its effectiveness

Who is Testing Recommended for?

Testing is recommended for:

  • Postmenopausal women under age 65 who have one or more additional risk factors for osteoporosis (other than menopause)
  • Women ages 65 and older regardless of additional risk factors
  • Men over the age of 70 (check on insurance coverage)
  • Adults who have a low-impact fracture 
  • Women who are considering therapy for osteoporosis if testing would change the decision
  • Women who have been on long-term hormone replacement therapy
  • Women and men on glucocorticoid therapy, such as aromatase inhibitors or Depo Provera
  • Diseases, conditions and medications associated with low bone mass or bone loss