We all know that calcium is what bones are made of. As bones are created the bone cells are made from the calcium that’s removed from the blood. Many people use dietary calcium to help create bone cells. Bone density scans measure how much calcium is present within the bones.
This is a process that utilized a special type of x-ray known as a ‘duel-energy’ ex-ray absorptiometry’, or DXA. They can also use a bone densitometry for measuring bone thickness and how much bone loss has occurred.
So How Exactly Does it Work?
Calcium is in itself an opaque mineral. Because of a bone’s high calcium content you can easily see it on an x-ray. The x-ray procedures are non-invasive and doctors use them all the time for diagnosing and measuring bone thickness. Because of the opacity of bone and their easy visibility on an x-ray, doctors are able to detect any kind of bone problems and then treat them. It takes exposing bodies to small amounts of ionizing radiation that passes through the body and works to expose the results onto a photographic film plate which is placed on the opposite side of the body.
A specialized type of x-ray is used for imaging bone and check for bones density. It makes up the DXA image testing. The DXA, or dexa scan, is now considered to be the standard test for evaluating bone BMD (bone mineral density).
This type of procedure is mainly done on the hips and lower spine where your bone density is more susceptible to change. With some patients, the whole body is scanned in order to locate bone density problems. There are times when the main device works in combination with accessory devices. These also utilize x-ray technology as well as ultra-sound to deliver a more detailed image of low bone mass.
When special requirements are necessary, bone density scans can work in combination with the newer computer software programs like the ‘quantitative computed tomography’ for identifying and observing low bone mass. It is an accurate process but is not commonly used because of the extreme accuracy of the DXA scanning. Some patients, however, do require a special test and are given an LVA (lateral vertebral assessment).
Who Really Needs to Have Bone Density Scans?
- Post-menopausal women who don’t use estrogen replacement therapy.
- Tall Post-menopausal women that weigh under 125 pounds.
- Patients with a family history or personal history of smoking and/or hip fractures.
- Male patients who suffer from bone loss and subsequent conditions.
- Patients suffering from liver disease, kidney disease, osteoporosis, hyperparathyroidism, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
- Patients on medications like thyroid meds, dilantin, or prednisone.
- Patients who suffer from fractures on a regular basis.
What to do to Prepared for Your Test
This is a simple test and one that is quite painless. You are scheduled for an appointment to take your test. Then you begin the preparations for your test. You need to dress in loose clothing that is comfortable. Stay away from any clothing with metallic accessories such as hooks, button, and zippers.
In order to ensure you get an accurate result you should leave off wearing any jewelry as well. If you gone through special types of test such as a barium exam, or if you’ve used a contrast material during a CT scan, then let your doctor know before you go through with your test. There is a waiting period of from 10 – 14 days that needs to be observed before a DXA test is given. Women who are pregnant should avoid this test unless it is deemed to be absolutely necessary.
What Does the Procedure Consist Of?
As the patient, you will lie down on a comfortable padded table. The generator will be located beneath the table. The assessment procedure will generate specific images coming from nearly every region of your body. You might need hold your breath at times for just a couple of seconds to ensure that there are no processing errors in the images.
A technician will operate the x-ray machine will move to the next room to view the images as they are taken, and to make sure they are accurate images. A peripheral bone density scan is a simpler scan and can be completed in just a few shore minutes.
If a patient requires a specialized LVA then the same machine will be used and should only take from 10 – 30 minute to complete. It gives a very detailed image of underlying bone.