Bone Mineral Density Scan

BMD · Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry · Bone Mineral Density · Bone Mineral Density Test · Bone Densitometry

During the test

This test is normally done in a hospital, a diagnostic center, or a doctor's office by a technologist. It usually takes between 20 to 45 minutes.

This is a pain-free test. You will be lying on a table while a machine scans your bones and measures how much radiation they absorb. Usually at least two different bones (usually the hip and the spine) will be measured to produce a reliable BMD reading.

There are also portable machines that can measure the bone density of the wrist, fingers, leg, or heel. You may find these machines in pharmacies, but they are less reliable for predicting your risk of osteoporosis.

After the test

You can resume your normal daily activities right after the test. Your BMD result will be reported in the forms of a T-score and Z-score.

A T-score compares your bone density to that of young healthy adults of your gender. It is measured in units of standard deviations (SD), or how far you are from the average. If your T-score is below -2.5 (or 2.5 SD below normal), it indicates that you have osteoporosis. If your T-score is between -1 and -2.5, you have osteopenia, which means your bones are thinner than normal and you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

The Z-score on the other hand compares your bone density to those of other people with the same age, gender, weight, and ethnic background as you. If your Z-score is -1.5 (or 1.5 SD below the average), it might mean that there are causes other than aging and menopause that might be responsible for your bone loss.

Ask your doctor when you can expect your test results to be made available.

Your doctor may order additional tests or medications for you depending on the results.

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Reviewer: Trish Rawn, PharmD
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