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Bone Density Test

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is bone density test?

A bone density test, or densitometry, is a scan that measures bone density. It is also called a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. The test uses x-rays to show if your bones have lost minerals, such as calcium. The loss can cause your bones to become weak and increase your risk for osteoporosis. A bone density test is usually done on your hip, spine, or forearm. It can also be done of your entire body. You may need the test to diagnose osteoporosis, or to check your risk of bone fractures. Your healthcare provider can also monitor changes in your bone density. A bone density test is recommended for healthy women 65 years or older, and healthy men 70 years or older. The test is also recommended for anyone who is at high risk for bone loss.

How do I prepare for a bone density test?

Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare for the test. You may be told not to take calcium supplements the day of your test. You will be told what clothing to wear. Remove any metal that is near the body area being scanned. This includes jewelry, clothing with zippers, coins, body piercings, or an underwire bra. If you are a woman, tell your healthcare provider if you are or think you might be pregnant. There is a risk to your unborn baby from the radiation used during an x-ray. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about this risk.

What happens during a bone density test?

You will lie on a table. A scanner will pass over the area and take pictures. You will need to stay still during your scan so the pictures of your bones are clear. The scan lasts between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the area being scanned.

What are the risks of a bone density test?

The scan may not show bone loss, and you may not get needed treatment. The scan may show abnormal bone density when you have had no bone loss. If this occurs, you may get treatment you do not need. You will be exposed to a small amount of radiation from the x-ray machine.

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Further information

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