Bone Density

Bone Density Scan

Exam performed at Northwest Hospital

What is a bone density exam?

The bone density examination is a method used to determine how much mineral is in a person’s bones. This number can then be compared to a similar reference population to determine whether a patient has osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone mineral content and results in the development of spinal compression, hip and wrist fractures with little or no trauma. Once the density is determined, the value is converted into a score that reflects the relative risk of osteoporosis and the risk of sustaining fractures. This “T-score” can be used to assign the relative risk of future fracture and also be used to monitor a person’s response to therapy.

Via Radiology Bone Density


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How is this examination performed?

There are different methods of determining bone density, but our facility utilizes DXA scanning (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) which is considered the gold standard test.

The DXA examination takes about thirty minutes. The patient rests, without moving, on a padded table while a small arm-like device passes over the patient.

This emits a very small amount of radiation, with two different energy levels, to accurately assess the difference of bone density. A technologist reviews the data on a computer monitor before printing the information for our radiologist to interpret.

Is the examination safe?

The examination uses a small amount of radiation, but this is less than a single chest x-ray. It is considered safe and will not result in side effects. There are no injections.
If you are or may be pregnant, please inform the technologist.

What should I wear?

You should wear comfortable lightweight clothing. Metallic objects on a belt, snaps or zippers may need to be removed. If so, we will ask you to change into a patient gown.

How long will it take?

The entire examination should take no more than thirty minutes. There is a medical history survey you will provide that will take about five minutes.

What can be expected after the exam?

You will notice no physical changes after the examination. A return to normal activity is expected.

When will my physician receive my results?

Your physician will receive the results, including a graphic display of your progress and the interpretation by a Via Radiology radiologist, in about two days. Our report to your physician may include recommendations for follow-up, diet or physical therapy.

What are my risks for developing osteoporosis?

The typical risk factors include: family history, female, Caucasian race, poor calcium intake, poor dietary vitamin D intake, low estrogen levels, small or thin body build, lack of activity.

Who should have this examination?

These are the general recommendations, but you should discuss the need for this examination with your physician, as this is not a comprehensive list.

  • Women over 65.
  • Women under 65 with risk factors for osteoporosis.
  • Women or men with non-traumatic fractures of wrist, spine or hip.
  • Women who are deciding on estrogen hormone therapy at menopause
  • Patients who are being treated for osteoporosis and need follow-up


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