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Bone Density Testing

Bone density testing, also known as bone densitometry and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is used to measure bone loss and diagnose osteoporosis. It is a painless, non-invasive, accurate and inexpensive way of detecting osteoporosis. The procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes and does not require undressing.

It uses X-ray technology. Results help physicians determine the beginnings of or the extent of bone loss and provide treatment potentially before osteoporosis-related fractures occur.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a chronic condition that occurs when there is a depletion of bone calcium and protein. It is characterized by low bone mass, increased bone fragility and increased risk of bone fracture.

Twenty-five million Americans have osteoporosis. About 80 percent are women. However, one out of every 40 men has osteoporosis. Some see evidence of this disease in their early 40s. Osteoporosis can also occur during childhood. Most often, osteoporosis during childhood is caused by an underlying medical condition or a genetic disorder.

What are the Benefits of a Bone Density Scan?

  • Reveals important information about bone density for any age or gender
  • Provides early detection that other tests miss
  • Measures multiple sites of the body to determine the most appropriate treatments
  • Estimates fracture risk
  • Easily administered with a low radiation dose that is roughly equivalent to a cross-country airline flight

How Do You Schedule a Bone Density Scan?

In order to schedule a bone density scan, you should see your family physician and ask for a referral. You may not refer yourself for an appointment. Based on your physician's assessment of your risk factors, some insurance companies may or may not cover the cost of the scan.â€&hibar;Please check with your insurance provider about your coverage prior to the scan.

Preparing for a Bone Density Scan

Do not ingest any solid pills containing calcium for 24 hours prior to the scan. (This includes multi-vitamins and herbal medicines.)

Do not take IV contrast, barium studies or nuclear medicine studies for seven days prior to the scan.


*WakeMed Health & Hospitals adheres to the International Society of Clinical Densitometry (ISCD) guidelines in the performance and interpretation of DXA studies.