Bone Density Scan - Early Detection Of Osteoporosis, Bone Scans, Screening

Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease affecting the bones. It is one of the most prevalent conditions associated with aging. This condition is responsible for over 1.5 million fractures annually in the United States. Early detection of osteoporosis through a bone density scan can allow for treatment and prevention of unwanted pain and suffering.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become fragile and more prone to breaking. People may not know they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump or fall can cause a fracture or a vertebra to collapse. The majority of fractures occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. If un-detected and left untreated, osteoporosis can progress unnoticed until a bone breaks.

Bone Density Scan for Osteoporosis Detection

The bone density scan allows for the early detection of Osteoporosis and bone loss. With this knowledge numerous therapies (i.e. diet, dietary supplements, weight-bearing exercise, and medication) may be implemented to slow or stop the progression of the disease.

FemaleOsteoporosis Risk Factors:

  • Thin, small frame
  • Advanced age
  • Family history
  • Early menopause
  • Low calcium diet
  • Steroid use
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Caucasian or Asian ethnicity

One in two women and one in eight men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetimeStatistics about Osteoperosis

  • Currently, in the United States, 18 million individuals have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

Bone Density Scan FAQ's

Why should I have a Bone Density Scan?

With normal aging, underlying medical conditions, use of medications and family history of osteoporosis/fractures, bones can weaken and fracture. The most common cause of bone weakening is osteoporosis. As the bones weaken, the probability of fractures increases. In the U.S. today, 10 million people already have the disease and 18 million more have low bone mass resulting in an increased risk for the disease and fracture. Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1-2 million fractures per year. Once a hip fracture develops, surgery is required and patients are confined to a bed or wheel chair for prolonged periods. If bone density or weakening is detected early, osteoporosis is preventable and treatable.

How can one detect osteoporosis?

A bone density scan can assess the current density (strength) of your bones. The results provide the physician with a bone density measurement to manage your predicted risk of fracture. A bone density scan can make a diagnosis or follow progression of osteoporosis, or to see if the existing condition has altered following treatment, chemotherapy or with aging. Baseline scans are done every 2-3 years.

What is a Bone Density Scan?

A Bone Density Scan is not the same as a Nuclear Medicine Bone Scan. To establish your bone density, special X-ray beams are used to scan specific weight-bearing bones in the skeleton. The results are then adjusted to a normal expected value for one’s age, height and weight. The degree of osteoporosis is assessed and a risk factor for fracture is developed

What does the bone density scan reveal?

The Bone Density Scan can accurately predict who is at increased risk for fractures and be used to accurately follow those with osteoporosis for worsening or improvement. It can be used to guide treatment of this potentially devastating disease. The Bone Density Scan uses electron beam tomography to measure bone density. Quantitative Computed Tomography is the gold standard for bone densitometry.

Who should undergo bone scan?

- All postmenopausal women under age 65 who are at risks for fractures
- All women aged 65 and older
- Postmenopausal women who present with fractures (to confirm diagnosis, healing and other areas of potential fracture
- Women who are considering therapy for osteoporosis
- Women who have been on hormone replacement therapy for prolonged periods
- Men at risk for osteoporosis
- Men and woman on long term steroid therapy
- Men and woman with chronic bowel problems resulting in malabsorption.

What happens during the scan?

The scan is performed in a radiology suite. There is no special preparation required before the procedure. Patients should wear loose comfortable clothing without zippers or metal buttons. Patients need to be still for a few minutes while the imaging takes place, and no IV is required. Most scanning machines use narrow beams of X-rays but some use ultrasound instead. The dose of radiation used is very small. The entire procedure takes about 20-30 minutes.

What does a bone scan reveal?

The bone scan will reveal the overall density of your bones and predict the chance of a fracture. Bone scans are more sensitive for detection of bone density than simple x rays.

How often should scans be done?

A single scan can predict the chance of a fracture. However, if some patients continue to have risk factors or take medications (steroids), then a second scan may be done 2-3 years later.

Does a low bone density always mean osteoporosis?

Fortunately, it does not. Other conditions associated with low bone density include osteomalacia, some malabsorption conditions of the bowel, and disorders of childhood. It is important to rule out these problems as they require different treatment to osteoporosis.

What is the cost of a bone density scan?

The average cost of a bone density scan is $200.

By Staff
Updated: May 4, 2007

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