Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, causing them to become brittle and prone to break easily. In fact, daily activities or occurrences such as a slight fall or standing up from a seated position, even coughing, can cause a broken bone. However, it’s never too late, or too early, to do something about osteoporosis. You can take steps to manage your bone health throughout life.
Although it can occur at any age, osteoporosis is considered a disease of aging. Your genetic makeup is the major factor determining your bone health, although medications and other medical conditions can contribute to bone loss. Women are more prone to develop osteoporosis; however, men are not excluded from this condition.
Signs and symptoms
The problem with detecting osteoporosis is there are no signs or symptoms until after a fracture has occurred. Most commonly, the bones of the lower back, hip and forearm are broken. Height loss, stooped posture, shortness of breath and pain are all possible indicators of these types of fractures.
With dedicated bone densitometry machines, we can now identify individuals who are at risk before fractures occur. Treatment programs can be implemented to protect bones from damage or injury.
Why be concerned now
Studies show that people who have suffered fractures due to osteoporosis are more likely to have another fracture, and complications can be fatal. It is estimated that a woman has a 40 percent chance of fracture from osteoporosis after age 50, and 20 percent of women with hip fractures will die within a year. This risk is equal to the combined risk of developing breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.
Early detection is the best way to protect yourself from the debilitating effects of osteoporosis. If you are found to be at risk for first or subsequent fractures, treatment programs are available. Your physician can help you with medication and lifestyle changes to improve the health of your bones or reduce your risk for further injury.
Bone mineral density
Your bone health can be assessed by the strength of your bones. A bone mineral density measurement will diagnose osteoporosis or determine if you are at risk for fractures. With a simple and safe scan, your bone density will be compared to the normal readings of young adults within your sex and race.
INTEGRIS Bass Baptist Health Center uses non-invasive state of the art digital technology to accurately measure and report your bone density.
Bone density scans
You will relax on a padded table, the technologist will position you accordingly and the machine will move over you while it scans. In a few minutes your exam will be complete; it is just that fast and easy.
Typically, your technologist will scan your hip and lower back. If these areas are not appropriate due to previous surgery or fracture, another body part will be scanned.
Preparing for your exam
Avoid taking any calcium the day of your exam, as false or inaccurate results may occur. Do not take calcium supplements or vitamins containing calcium until your test is complete. Wear comfortable clothing preferably without snaps, buttons or zippers at the waist.
Some other radiology exams can interfere with your bone density test. Any exams that involve barium or IV contrast (dye) should be scheduled after your bone density test or at least one week prior.
The International Society for Clinical Densitometry currently recommends that a bone density test be done for:
- All women age 65 and older.
- All men age 70 and older.
- Anyone with a fragility fracture.
- Anyone with a disease, condition or medication associated with osteoporosis.
- Anyone who is considering therapy for osteoporosis, if bone density testing would facilitate the decision.
- Women who have been on hormone replacement therapy for prolonged periods.
- Anyone being treated for osteoporosis, to monitor the effects of therapy.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it last?
Plan 30 minutes for your appointment; your actual scan will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
How much radiation will I be exposed to?
Very little radiation is needed to calculate the density of your bones; in most cases it is less than a chest X-ray.
How do I get results?
Your results will be sent to your physician within 24 to 48 hours.
Is a bone density scan the same as a bone scan?
No. A bone scan is a test in the Nuclear Medicine department in which radioactive material is injected into your veins. No needles are used in bone density tests.
Will this test show fractures?
No. Bone density is not a diagnostic test for bone abnormalities. If you have concerns about a specific bone due to injury, trauma or pain, an X-ray of that area would be necessary. Speak with your physician about any problems you may be experiencing.