For diagnosing osteoporosis, the doctor reviews medical history of the patient and perform a physical exam.
Some blood and urine tests are also done to check for the conditions that may cause bone loss. If your doctor suspects the patient may have osteoporosis or that there is a risk of developing it, a bone density test may be recommended.
Bone density test is also called bone densitometry, or dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before its consequences and symptoms begin to occur. The test uses X-rays to measure the density of the bones.
The test measures the grams of calcium and other bone minerals (bone mineral density) that are packed into a segment of bone. The main focus of this test is on wrists, hips, and spine because these three bones are at high risk of osteoporosis. This painless test can take from 10 to 30 minutes.
A bone density test checks whether the patient:
Lower bone density implies that there is a greater risk of breaking a bone. A bone density test can help the patient and the healthcare professional to:
A bone density test is recommended for the following:
If a person is recommended to have a bone density test, then there are certain things which should be taken care of. These are:
The DEXA Scan (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) machine is used for the bone density test. This machine sends a thin, invisible beam of x-rays (in low doses) with two distinct energy peaks through the bones that are to be examined. One energy peak is absorbed mainly by soft tissue and the other is absorbed by the bone.
The bone density is calculated as:
Patient’s bone mineral density = total bone - the amount of soft tissue
The bone density measurements are displayed on a computer monitor after special software of the DEXA machine computes the result.
In central DXA, testing is done on the hip and spine. Bone density in the hip and spine is measured for several reasons:
The test usually takes 10 - 15 minutes. Bone density tests are painless and noninvasive (no needles or instruments are placed through the skin or body). A central DXA uses very little radiation.
Screening tests are also called peripheral tests. These tests measure bone density in the lower arm, wrist, finger or heel. Screening tests are useful when a central DXA is not available.
The machines used for screening tests are found easily in health care offices, pharmacies, shopping centers, and at health fairs.
Most central DXA machines have a limitation that they cannot measure bone density in the hip and spine of patients who are overweight. In such situations, healthcare providers recommend a central DXA test of the radius bone in the forearm together with a peripheral bone density test of the heel or another bone. Both these tests when combined provide complete information.
Bone density testing is mostly offered by:
After the test, the testing center sends the bone density test results to the healthcare provider of the patient.
People suffering from osteoporosis and those taking medicine should repeat their bone density test every one to two years. After starting a new medication for osteoporosis, many healthcare providers suggest repeating a bone density test after every year.
When repeating a bone density test, the testing equipment and the place of testing should be same for more accurate results.
Bone density test results are reported using T-scores. A T-score compares the bone density of patient with the bone density of a healthy 30 years old adult and states whether the bone density of the former is higher or lower than the latter.
A healthcare provider analyzes the T-score in the following way:
Lower the T-score, the lower the bone density of the patient.
The benefits of bone density testing are given below:
Some of the risks associated with the test are:
What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a condition of bone that is. . . .
What causes Osteoporosis? Bones undergo two constant phases— new bone. . . .
Exercises for osteoporosis Regular exercise is essential for. . . .
Bones cannot be seen like the skin and cannot be heard like the heart and. . . .
Osteoporosis Prevention The height and the strength of the. . . .
Osteoporosis Treatment: Can it be treated. . . .