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What Happens During a Bone Density Scan?

A short and painless procedure known as a bone density scan is performed while you are laying on your back on an X-ray table, scanning a specific area of your body. There are no special preparations needed for a bone density scan show Arthritis. You might be able to keep wearing your clothes, depending on the area of your body being scanned. Any apparel with metal buckles, hooks, or zippers must be removed. In some cases, you might need to put on a robe.

The Evaluation of Bone Density – Important Details

By measuring your bone density, which measures how strong your bones are, bone density scans can identify if you have osteoporosis. The most often used test is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA), which assesses bone health and your risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.

Risk factors for fractures include body weight, age, a history of previous fractures, a family history of osteoporotic fractures, and lifestyle decisions, including frequent drinking and smoking. With very little exposure to ionizing radiation, the process creates images of the interior of your body that can be used to estimate the bone loss.

What Will Happen During the Scan?

You lay on your back for a DEXA scan on a flat, open X-ray table. You must maintain stability throughout the scan to avoid fuzzy images. A radiographer often performs the scan. 

During the scan, a sizable scanning arm will be moved over your body to measure the density of the bones in the skeleton’s middle. A little low-dose X-ray beam will gently move across the scanned area while the scanning arm slowly moves across your body.

Your hip and lower spine are usually the first places you check for weak bones. However, because bone density varies throughout the skeleton’s bones, more than one area of your body might be scanned. If certain illnesses, such as hyperparathyroidism, render hip or spine scans impractical or unnecessary, the forearm may be scanned in its place.

Some X-rays supplied to your body will be absorbed by tissue, including fat and bone. An X-ray detector housed inside the scanning arm tracks the number of X-rays that have passed through your body.

This information will be required to produce an image of the scanned region. The scan typically lasts ten to twenty minutes. You will be able to go back home once it is over.

What Does the Apparatus Look Like?

The two different types of DXA equipment are central and peripheral devices.

Most DXA equipment is located in the centre and is used to measure bone density in the hip and spine. Hospitals and clinics are where they frequently congregate. Central machinery has a giant flat table and an “arm” hung above.

Peripheral devices measure bone density in the wrist, heel, or finger and are usually available in pharmacies and community mobile health vans. The pDXA devices are lighter than the primary DXA apparatus, weighing roughly 60 pounds. They might have a transportable box-like shape with a place to rest the foot or forearm while being imaged. Sometimes screening is done using other transportable technologies, such as specially designed ultrasound equipment. But central DXA is the usual approach.

Why Would you Need a Bone Density Scan?

The DEXA scan is the most used and reliable method for identifying osteoporosis. Women are more likely than men to develop post-menopause symptoms, while men may encounter them occasionally or infrequently. Osteoporosis is characterized by gradual changes in your bones’ structural integrity, bone loss, and bone thinning. Your likelihood of developing bone fragility and breaking increases. These scans can also monitor how well treatments for conditions like osteoporosis and others that result in bone loss are working. If you can relate to any of the following: 

  • an estrogen-free post-menopausal lady;
  • Are you slim for a post-menopausal woman or tall (above 5 feet 7 inches)? (under 125 pounds)
  • Have had a bone fracture after only minor stress, a vertebral fracture, or other osteoporosis symptoms as demonstrated by an X-ray
  • Have kidney, liver, or osteoporosis issues as well as type 1 diabetes, sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Use medications are known to cause bone loss.
  • a thyroid condition like hyperthyroidism
  • a parathyroid condition such as hyperparathyroidism
  • Had parents who smoked or who suffered a hip fracture
  • Are a man’s clinical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver disease, or kidney disease, present that lead to bone loss?

What limitations could there be for a bone density scan?

Even though it cannot determine who may fracture, the DXA test determines whether therapy is required. However, it can offer a relative danger.

DXA has limited value in patients with spinal anomalies or past spinal fusions while being a trustworthy method for determining bone density. The test’s precision may be jeopardized in the presence of osteoarthritis or spinal compression fractures; in these circumstances, CT scans might be more beneficial.

While central DXA equipment costs slightly more than pDXA equipment, it is more sensitive and standardized. The likelihood of a fracture in the spine or hip can be ascertained by performing a test on a peripheral location like the wrist or heel. These tests are less effective for tracking treatment response. Hence a baseline central DXA scan should be carried out if they indicate that pharmacological therapy is required.

Follow-up DXA tests should be performed in the same location as the patient and ideally on the same machine. It is impossible to directly compare the outcomes of bone density assessments performed using different DXA equipment.

How can I get the interpretations of the results, and who does it?

You can compare your bone density to that of a young, healthy adult or an adult of the same age, gender, and ethnicity using a bone density scan. The difference is calculated as a standard score. It determines the difference between your actual bone density and the expected value.

Grade T

Above -1 SD is considered normal bone mineral density (BMD), between -1 and -2.5 SD is considered mildly reduced BMD concerning peak bone mass (PBM), and at or below -2.5 SD is considered osteoporosis.

Z score

The Z score of your bone density should not be in the negatives. If it is -2 or -1, it is lower than it should be for someone your age. Z scores are often used to measure the development of children and persons under 30.

You can get a good indication of how strong your bones are from the results of a bone density scan, but they cannot ensure that you won’t fracture. For example, a person with low bone density may never break a bone, whereas a person with average bone density. 
This is because other characteristics, such as age, sex, or whether you’ve ever fallen, can affect your likelihood of sustaining a fracture. Before determining if therapy is required, CDNcare will consider all of your unique risk factors.

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