Who Needs To Be Screened For Osteoporosis?

You may be selected to be screened for osteoporosis based on any of the risk factors listed below.

The Bone Density (DEXA) Scan

A DEXA scan is a specialized x-ray of the hip, spine, or forearm used to measure the density of your bones.

What To Know Prior To Your DEXA Scan.

  • Do not have a DEXA scan if you are pregnant, or if you have had a radiology test requiring contrast dye during the prior week
  • Eat a normal diet on the day of the DEXA scan
  • Do not take calcium pills during the 24 hours leading up to the test
  • Otherwise, take your normal medications as prescribed
  • Do not wear clothes with metal zippers as these may interfere with the results of your DEXA scan

What To Expect During Your DEXA Scan.

  • The entire process will take less than 30 minutes
  • You will lie on your back while pictures of your hips and spine are taken
  • You will sit on a chair with your arm across the table while pictures of your forearm are taken
  • Cushions may be used for positioning
  • The DEXA scan is painless and uses only very low levels of radiation

What To Expect After Your DEXA Scan.

After a DEXA scan, the density of your bones will be compared to the bone density of a “normal young adult” who has reached peak bone mass. Based on this comparison, a number known as a T-score is generated. So what exactly does your T-score mean?

  • If your bone density is the same as a normal young adult, your T-score will be 0.
  • If your bone density is STRONGER than a normal young adult, your T-score will be a positive number. (+1.2, +2.0, etc.)
  • If your bone density is WEAKER than a normal young adult, your T-score will be a negative number. (-1.2, -2.0, etc.)
  • The more negative the T-score number, the weaker your bones and the greater your risk for fractures.

The medical community has created the following cut-offs for determining if your bone density is normal, mild to moderately low (osteopenia), or severely low (osteoporosis).

How Often Should You Have A DEXA Scan?

If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, your medical provider will likely recommend a DEXA scan every 2 years to monitor your bone health. If your bones have normal density, you may not need to have another DEXA scan for 5-10 years or longer!

Osteoporosis Blood Tests

Your medical provider will routinely order blood and possibly even urine tests as part of your evaluation for osteoporosis. These labs check for conditions which may be weakening your bones. Below is a list of commonly ordered labs, as well as an explanation as to how these labs relate to your bone health.