Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Measurement

Assessing Your Risk for Spinal Fracture and Osteoporosis

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures skeletal bone loss. The amount of bone lost tells your physician how dense and strong your bones are. The test is performed to help diagnose your risk of fracture (eg, spinal compression fracture), detect osteopenia (low bone density) and osteoporosis. Furthermore, the test results can help your physician evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for osteoporosis.
Bone densitometry may include your FRAX® score. FRAX is a fracture risk assessment tool (computer software) that reviews a patient's age, bone density and other fracture risk factors.

The radiologist reviews all your test results, writes a report and sends it to your ordering physician.

Other names for a bone mineral density test include:

Your doctor may order bone mineral density testing if:

About Bone Densitometry
The test is performed on an outpatient basis at the hospital or radiology facility. The test is easy, takes less than 15 minutes, painless and noninvasive. Bone densitometry may include a Lateral Vertebral Assessment to check for spinal fracture due to loss of height (eg, one inch or more) or borderline bone density results.

Preparing for Bone Mineral Density Testing

At the testing facility, you may be asked to change into a gown and remove metal items, such as jewelry. The radiology technician positions you laying on your back on the DEXA scanner's padded table. The test is usually performed in two steps:

During each step, the scanner portion of the machine moves over your body. The entire test usually takes less than 15 minutes.

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