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Bone Density

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General Information About Bone Density

The bone densitometer measures your bone mineral density (BMD) and compares your measurements to a reference group based on your age, weight, sex, and ethnic background. This information will be used in making a diagnosis about your bone status and risk of fracture.

The physicians and staff of St. Paul Radiology are pleased to provide you with answers to questions you may have about your upcoming exam. This information will help ensure a positive experience when you are a patient for bone densitometry.

Procedure Description

Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is most often used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause but may also be found in men.

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Download Procedure Preparation Information


Questions About Bone Densitometry


Question: What is a bone densitometry exam?

Answer: Also known as a DEXA screening, this procedure measures bone mineral density and can determine if you have osteoporosis. Often called the "silent disease", osteoporosis symptoms are rarely evident until bone has been lost.

The bone densitometer uses small amounts of X-ray to produce images of the spine, hip or even the whole body. The spine and hip are measured because they are where osteoporotic fractures most often occur. The X-Ray is composed of two energy levels that are absorbed differently by bones. The technical term for this method is "dual energy X-Ray absorptiometry" or DEXA. A computer is able to determine from these differences how much bone mineral is present.


Question: Can I eat or drink before my exam?

Answer: Yes, however, do not take calcium supplements for two days prior to your exam or on the day of your exam.


Question: What should I bring to my appointment?

Answer: Please bring your insurance card. Your insurance company will be billed for the procedure. You will receive a bill for any co-pay or non-covered expenses from St. Paul Radiology Outpatient Imaging.


Question: What should I wear to my examination?

Answer: Please wear comfortable clothing that does not have zippers or other metal fasteners. Belt buckles, metal or thick plastic buttons and metal jewelry will need to be removed from the spine and hip area prior to your bone densitometry exam.


Question: How long will my examination last?

Answer: The screening lasts approximately 30 minutes.


Question: How does the procedure work?

Answer: Before the exam starts, the technologist will enter your name, age, weight and ethnicity into the computer. This information is used to compare your results with a normal reference population. During the bone densitometry exam, you will lie on your back on a padded table. As the exam progresses, the technologist will position your arms and legs. If you have metallic orthopedic devices in your spine or hip, your forearm or heel may be evaluated instead of the area containing metal. The information obtained during the exam will be used by your physician to evaluate bone status and fracture risk.


Question: Is the examination painful?

Answer: No. The procedure is painless.


Question: How will I receive my bone densitometry results?

Answer: A Board Certified Radiologist (a physician who specializes in interpreting diagnostic images) will study the images from your examination and send a report to your physician.