Sentara patients can receive a bone densitometry scan, also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), at many advanced imaging and hospital locations throughout the Sentara Healthcare system. Care is taken to make sure patients feel comfortable and well informed throughout the procedure.
What is a bone densitometry scan?
Bone densitometry scan is a radiological tool used to manage and diagnose osteoporosis. Using X-ray, physicians can measure the density of minerals (mainly calcium) in your bones and assess strength and risk of fracture.
What can a bone densitometry scan tell my doctor?
Bone densitometry is especially helpful in detecting the early stages of osteoporosis, before symptoms occur. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects mostly post menopausal women over the age of 65, although men can be afflicted as well.
While everyone loses bone mass with age, osteoporosis puts you at increased risk for fractures, particularly in the hips and vertebrae. The good news is, with bone density testing, most of these patients can be treated before their bones lose too much strength.
Bone density testing is also recommended for:
Patients with a history of osteoporosis
Women past menopause
Patients age 65 and older
Patients who use medications known to cause bone loss, including corticosteroids such as Prednisone, some anti-seizure medications, some barbiturates, or high-dose thyroid replacement drugs
Patients with Type 1 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or a family history of osteoporosis
Patients who have high bone turnover, the process of breaking down and reforming bone.
Fracture after only mild trauma.
Evidence of vertebral fracture in an X-ray
How do I prepare for my exam?
You may eat normally on the day of the exam but should not take calcium supplements for at least 24 hours before your exam.
Wear loose, elastic waisted or drawstring, comfortable clothing. Do not wear items that have metal hooks, zippers, belts or buttons made of metal. Although, patients may choose to wear a gown for the exam.
Other items, such as jewelry, or any other metal objects, may need to be removed before the exam so that they do not interfere with the X-ray.
If you have had a recent barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a CT, nuclear medicine or any other scan, you may have to wait up to two weeks before undergoing a bone densitometry scan.
Women should always inform their physician and radiology technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
How is the test performed?
Depending on what type of machine is used, you may be asked to either lie down on a table or put your foot in a special device.
If your doctor wants to measure bone density in your hip and spine, you will lie on a padded table. An X-ray generator will be located under the table and an imaging device above.
To evaluate your spine, you will be asked to lift your legs onto a padded box so that your pelvis and lower spine is more flat against the table.
To look at the hip, feet will be rotated inward utilizing a special positioning device that will rotate the hips inward.
When the X-ray passes over, you must be still for a few seconds to prevent movement. That will help create a sharper image that’s not blurred.
The peripheral tests using small portable devices are simpler. The finger, hand, forearm or foot is placed in a small device that obtains a bone density reading within a few minutes.
A bone density test can take up to 30 minutes.
Are there risks?
Bone densitometry tests are very safe. However, the machines that use X-rays should not be used on pregnant women. This is usually not a problem since osteoporosis usually happens during and after menopause.
How will I find out the results?
Your doctor will use a scale to rate your bone scan.
T score — The T score is used to estimate your risk of developing a fracture.
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 (low bone mass). A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis.
Z score — This number looks at the amount of bone you have compared with other people in the same age group and of the same size and gender. If the score is unusually high or low, further medical tests may be required.
Bone Densitometry Locations:
Advanced Imaging Center, Sentara Princess Anne, Virginia Beach
Advanced Imaging Center, Sentara Independence, Virginia Beach
Advanced Imaging Center – Greenbrier, Chesapeake
Executive Evaluation Center, Wainwright, Norfolk
Dorothy G. Hoefer Breast Center at Sentara Port Warwick, Newport News
Geddy Outpatient Center, Williamsburg
Sentara Leigh Hospital, Norfolk
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
Sentara Obici Hospital, Suffolk
Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, Virginia Beach
Sentara Virginia Beach Breast Center — Sentara Princess Anne
Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital
Sentara Medical Group Diagnostic Centers
First Colonial Diagnostic Center, Virginia Beach
NDC Diagnostic Center, Norfolk
Fort Norfolk Diagnostic Center, Norfolk