It has come to that time in my life where I am due for a bone density examination. This is a bone densitometry exam done by x-ray to measure how many grams of calcium are in your bone material. My physician recommends this procedure for any women after menopause, history of hip fractures, smokers, persons on medicines that cause bone loss, diabetics, those with thyroid conditions and tall/thin women to help diagnose osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a gradual loss of calcium causing your bones to become thinner, fragile, and more likely to fracture. The bone density test is the only way to detect low bone density and diagnose osteoporosis.
To prepare, my physician gave me a list of instructions to follow. On the day of the exam you can eat normally but not take any of your calcium supplements for 24 hours before. Do not wear any pants/ shorts with zippers, belts or buttons made of metal. Take off all your jewelry, eye glasses, keys, wallets and phones from your clothing. You cannot have a bone density exam is you recently had a barium test with contrast material 7 to 14 days before. As always, notify the x-ray technician if there is a possibility you may be pregnant.
The x-ray table is flat and padded with the x-ray camera suspended overhead. A computer displays the bone density measurements. My legs were supported on a padded box to get a better picture of the pelvis and lower lumbar spine. My foot was placed in a brace to rotate the hip inward and the x-ray camera slowly passes over taking pictures. You have to hold still when a picture is taken. At health fairs, a smaller screening device reads the measurements in a few minutes from your fingers, hand, forearm and foot/heel using a type of ultrasound.
The test took about 10 to 15 minutes. It was very quick and painless with no anesthesia involved. If your bone mineral content is a higher number on your results, your bones are stronger and less likely to break. You receive a T-score (above -1 is normal) and a Z- score (a number above or below other persons your age, sex, weight and ethnicity). Bone density tests are not bone scans that you require an injection before. Repeat testing is usually performed in 2 or more years.
Radiology Info.org @ http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=dexa
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bone-density-test/MY00304
National Osteoporosis foundation: http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/bmdtest.htm