Header for Osteoporosis Digest

How Will A Bone Scan Procedure Your Osteoporosis Treatment Program?

A bone scan procedure will provide a snapshot of your bone health. If you have excessive bone loss, other tests may be required to determine the cause.

Health practitioners generally recommend a bone density scan when women reach perimenopause (menstrual irregularity occurring usually between 45 and 55) or earlier if they are at risk for osteoporosis.

Men should receive a bone density test at age 70 or earlier if using corticosteroids or prostate cancer drugs.

A bone density test will provide an osteoporosis T-score that is assessed according to the following guidelines:

  • Osteopenia: -1 and -2.5
  • Osteoporosis: lower than -2.5

The test will focus on bones that are most likely to break if they are brittle, including:

  • lower spine bones (lumbar vertebrae L1-L3)
  • the narrow neck of your thigh bone (femur) that adjoins your hip
  • the femur itself (thigh bone)

... and sometimes the bones in your wrist and forearm. Bone loss does not occur equally amongst these sites, so a doctor may prescribe a medication that targets the area that has suffered the greatest loss.

The Bone Mineral Density Test (BMD, DEXA, DXA)

A bone scan procedure may be called several names including a bone mineral density test (BMD), a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry test (DEXA) or simply a DXA test. The procedure involves lying on a table for several minutes while a small x-ray detector scans your spine, one hip or both hips. The test is safe and painless and does not require any injections or other discomfort.

You receive a very small amount of radiation from the procedure... approximately equivalent to the exposure when flying from coast to coast in North America.

If you are monitoring your bone density, it is best to re-test on the same machine for a more accurate comparison of your T-scores. As an effective bone building program will take 1.5 to 2 years to improve bone density, most health insurance plans will only pay for tests every two or three years.

A bone scan procedure provides an excellent snapshot of your current bone health but it does not indicate your future risk of osteoporosis or the underlying causes of the bone loss.

If you are not suffering from the most common osteoporosis risk factors (such as a poor diet, low vitamin D, certain medical conditions or limited exercise) then additional tests may be needed to determine the reason for the bone loss.

If your bone scan procedure indicates significant bone loss, it is important to receive the vitamins and minerals that will help to restore your bone health.