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Osteoporosis Testing

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist.

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans. In the U.S., 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Also, 80 percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women.

Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height or spinal deformities.


Breast Care Services can perform a specialized test called a DEXA - dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan that can measure bone density in various sites of the body. This test is simple, quick and painless, and it can be done in less than 40 minutes. The test can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs; predict your chances of fracturing in the future and determine your rate of bone loss and monitor response to treatment. The result of your test is called a T-score, and it's important to know what it means. Your T-score compares your bone mass with that of a population of normal young adult women.

How is a DEXA scan done?

You must be able to lay flat on a table while the scanner moves over the top of your body while using the lowest amount of radiation. A chest x-ray uses 10 times more radiation than a DEXA scan. The bone density is measured at different sites in the body, usually both hips and the spine. If you have had both hips surgically replaced or if you have had surgery on your spine, an alternative site may be chosen. Also, if your weight exceeds 300 pounds, a forearm scan may be substituted. The actual scanning time is about 10 minutes per site but you should allow 40 minutes for the entire procedure.

Preparation for the test

Upon arrival, you will need to fill out a history form. We recommend you wear loose comfortable clothing with no metal buttons, zippers or snaps. Do not wear a girdle, and do not wear blue jeans. If you are taking a calcium supplement, do not use it for 48 hours before your exam. Also, remind the technologist if you have had any back or hip surgery. You cannot have this test if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant or if you had another x-ray within the last week that used contrast media such as a barium enema, an upper GI, some CAT scans or a nuclear scan.

Please talk with your physician if you feel you may be at risk for thinning bones or osteoporosis to see if this test is necessary for you. We also encourage you to check with your insurance company before you schedule since some insurance companies may not pay for this test.

We hope this information has been helpful. If you have additional questions about the DEXA or would like to make an appointment, please call us at 814-375-4061.

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