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Bone Density / DEXA

Bone Density Tests

Following a comprehensive medical assessment, your doctor may recommend that you have your bone mass measured. Bone mineral density (BMD) test measure bone density in the spine, hip, and/or forearm. These are the most common sites of fractures due to osteoporosis, a disorder in which bones gradually become thinner and weaker. Osteoporosis is often called the “silent killer” because the condition can often go undetected until it is severe and fractures begin to occur. Until the age of about 30, you build and store bone efficiently. Then, as part of the natural aging process, your bones begin to break down faster than new bone can be formed. Syracuse Area Health offers bone density tests Monday-Friday 8am-5pm.

What can the test do?

A bone density test can:

  • Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs;
  • Predict your chances of fracturing in the future;
  • Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you have already suffered a fracture;
  • Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more;

How do I prepare for the exam?

To prepare for the exam, wear comfortable clothing with no metal zippers, buttons, or buckles. Let the technologist know if you are pregnant or think you may be. Also let the technologist know if you have had recent fractures, metal implants inside your body (hip replacements or back surgeries). It is also important to inform the technologist if you have had a recent nuclear medicine scan or a barium exam.

What can I expect from the exam?

During a DEXA bone density scan, you will be asked to lie on a table on your back. The scanner arm will move back and forth over the part of your body being scanned. Typical DEXA exams are completely painless and only take 10-15 minutes to perform. 

The information from a bone density test enables your doctor to identify where you stand within ranges of normal and to determine whether you are at risk for fractures. In general, the lower your bone density, the higher your risk for fractures. Test results will help you and your doctor decide the best course of action for your bone health.

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