What is a bone density scan?

A bone density scan measures the mineral content of your bones. With this information, your doctor can assess your risk for bone fractures and diagnose osteoporosis.

What is bone densitometry?

Bone densitometry measures the bone mineral content in various sites of the body. This enables your doctor to diagnose osteoporosis and assess your risk of bone fractures.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces bone density and often leads to fractures, pain and physical deformity. Osteoporosis can progress silently for years, showing no symptoms until painful or debilitating fractures occur.

Osteoporosis affects one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50. Forty percent of women and fifteen percent of men with osteoporosis will break at least one bone.

How do I know if I’m at risk of osteoporosis?

The World Health Organization has developed an online osteoporosis risk assessment tool. You enter your risk factors (such as having broken a bone) as well as your bone mineral density at the hip. The tool then calculates your 10-year risk of an osteoporotic fracture. You can access the assessment tool online at http://www.shef.ac.uk/FRAX/tool.jsp?country=19.

Why should I have a bone density scan?

Early detection of bone loss is the best way to prevent osteoporosis. A bone density scan will let you know if there are any problems you need to be aware of, and will allow your doctor to prescribe treatments to minimize bone loss.

What happens in a bone density scan?

A bone density scan is a simple, non-invasive procedure. You will be asked to lie down on a scan table and remain motionless. A scanner will pass over one of three skeletal areas: your lower spine, hip or wrist. As the scanner moves, a dual-energy beam passes through the targeted area and is measured by a detector.

How long will the bone density scan take?

The entire procedure lasts about 20 minutes. Once the scan is complete, the radiologist will interpret the findings and forward a report to your doctor.

Who is at risk of developing osteoporosis?

The list of risk factors for osteoporosis is long and you need to review your own risks with your doctor. You might be at greater risk of developing if you:

  • are a post-menopausal woman,
  • broke a bone with minimal trauma,
  • have had more than one broken bone,
  • have a strong family history of osteoporosis and
  • use certain medications such as prednisone.

In 2010, the Canadian Medical Association published new guidelines for diagnosing and managing osteoporosis. Link (Full Article)

For more information on bone density scanning, visit Oestoporosis Canada at www.osteoporosis.ca

I’ve heard that an ultrasound of the heel can be an accurate test for determining osteoporosis. Is this true?

While an ultrasound of the heel can be used to screen for osteoporosis, it is not as precise or accurate as a bone density scan.