What is Low Bone Density?

Patient and doctor reviewing an x-rayLow bone density is the highest risk factor for spine and hip fractures, resulting in 700,000 and 250,000 cases respectively recorded in the United States every year. Greater than 90% of these instances occurred in people with borderline osteoporotic bone density. Similar to how high blood pressure is correlated with strokes, and how high cholesterol often leads to heart disease, low bone density exhibits a similar correlation with osteoporotic fracturing. Low bone density can be treated whereas other risk factors such as age, race, sex or genetics can not. Bone density tests can be used to determine the type or quantity of medication that is needed to treat osteoporosis.

What is a DEXA Scan?

DEXA, or Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, is a bone density procedure that is one of the best options for identifying and diagnosing osteoporosis and changes in bone density. X-rays of two different energy types distinguish between bone and tissue to accurately depict the level of bone density in a specific site.

What Should I Expect?

Patients undergoing DEXA will simply be asked to lie on a padded table for a few minutes. The x-ray dose is very low, similar to the radiation experienced on a plane ride, making DEXA a painless and non-invasive process.

While no specific preparation for this procedure is necessary, patients should wait one week to have a DEXA scan if they have recently undergone nuclear medicine studies or X-rays using contrasts like barium.