What is Osteoporosis / Bone Density Testing

By Dominic McKinley, MD, CAQ

What is Osteoporosis/Bone Density Testing?

Osteoporosis is a disease resulting from loss of bone mineral content (i. e. calcium). A loss of calcium in bones results in decreased density of the bones. When bones lose calcium they become more brittle and are susceptible to fractures.

In times past, one way to determine whether or not a person had osteoporosis was after they suffered a broken bone. Now there is a means to detect early signs of osteoporosis known as Bone Density Testing or Bone Densitometry. With early detection, a course of treatment can begin to prevent further bone mineral loss therefore, preventing fractures.

Bone Density Testing is performed by using a bone densitometer scanner. It uses a very low-dose of x-rays to scan areas of your body. The results of the test are calculated to compare your bone density to a healthy young female and also to someone of your own age.

Dr. Dominic McKinley is a Certified Clinical Densitometrist who reviews the results of the bone density tests. Dr. McKinley was asked about the procedure, “The test is pain free.”

Patients lay comfortably on a padded table while a mechanical arm passes over top. The test lasts for about 15-30 minutes depending on the number of areas scanned.” Dr. McKinley continued, “Both men and women are susceptible to osteoporosis and subsequent fractures. However, women have a higher incidence of osteoporosis.” Because of the higher incidence in women, Dr. McKinley cites the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2003 recommendations that all postmenopausal women who meet the following criteria should have a bone density test:

All women ages 65 and older regardless of risk factors :

• Younger postmenopausal women with one or more risk factors
• Postmenopausal women who present with fractures

Recommendations for men to be tested include :

• Ages 70 or older regardless of risk
• Ages < 70 with risk factors
• History of hypogonadism (low testosterone)

“An estimated 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their remaining lifetime.”