The primary purpose of bone density testing is to detect osteoporosis. This condition involves a gradual loss of calcium, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile, and more likely to break. The test can also be used to assess your risk for developing fractures, or to track the effects of treatment for osteoporosis or other conditions that cause bone loss. Osteoporosis often affects women after menopause, but may also be found in men.
The test is simple, painless, and takes about 20 minutes. It uses an enhanced form of x-ray technology known as DEXA. While you lay on a cushioned table, a scanner passes over your body. The amount of radiation used is extremely small -- less than one-tenth the dose of a standard chest x-ray -- but it is enough that radiologists can determine the mineral density of your bones and make an accurate diagnosis.
Your exam is interpreted by a board certified Radiologist, and test results will be sent to your ordering physician. Medicare will pay for this test once every two years.