What is Bone Density Testing?

Bone 2 Bone 1Bone Density Testing, or DEXA


Bone densitometry, using an advanced technology called DEXA (short for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), safely, accurately and painlessly measures bone mineral density. Bone densitometers with an additional capability called Instant Vertebral Assessment TM or IVA, may also produce an x-ray of the entire spine for the assessment of vertebral (spine) fractures.


During a comprehensive examination with DEXA, you lay comfortably still on a padded table while the DEXA unit scans two or more areas, usually the fracture-prone hip and spine. Unlike typical x-ray machines, radiation exposure during bone densitometry is extremely low-less than the radiation exposure during a coast-to-coast airline flight. The entire process takes only minutes to complete, depending on the number of sites scanned. It involves no injections or invasive procedures, and you remain fully clothed. DEXA is a fast, convenient and precise way to measure bone density and to help determine your risk of developing osteoporosis and future fractures.


Preparing for a bone density exam

Wear comfortable clothing without zippers or metal if possible (the metal creates a false reading). Patient gowns are also available. No special prep is necessary.

Do not schedule nuclear medicine or studies with Barium prep (like a fluoroscopy study or certain CT exams) within two days before your bone density exam as the contrast used in these tests will also cause a false reading.

Please refrain from taking any calcium supplements 24 hours before a bone density exam as this may also cause a false reading.



T score – This number shows the amount of bone you have compared with a young adult of the same gender with peak bone mass. A score above -1 is considered normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 is classified as osteopenia, the first stage of bone loss. A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis. The T score is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture.