Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Test
Where: ___________________________________________When: ____________________________________________
Type: Axial Extremity
What is a Bone Mineral Density Test?
This test is a low-dose of the hip, spine, and /or forearm that measures your bone density. The lower the density of a bone; the higher the risk that a bone will break. A bone density scan is painless. It takes about 30 minutes. The radiation dose is very small, about 1/5th of a chest x-ray.
Why Have a Bone Density Test?
- Diagnose osteoporosis (a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break).
- Detect bone loss from taking steroids (for example, prednisone) or other medicines.
- Measure changes in bone density over time.
- Help decide on treatment options for low bone density.
- Monitor response to osteoporosis medication.
- An extra spine image may be done to assess spine fractures.
How to Prepare for the Test
- Tell your health care provider if you may be pregnant.
- It is okay to eat and drink before the test.
- Do not take calcium pills or chewable tablets (including TUMS® or other antacids) within 12 hours before the test.
- Do not wear clothes with metal, such as buckles, rivets, buttons, zippers or under wire bras.
During the Test
You will lie on an exam table for a spine and hip test. You may need to sit in a chair for a forearm test. You will be asked to remain still during the test. You will be in an open space. A bone density technologist will be with you during the test.
In some cases, the technologist will need to confer with the doctor who is reading the scan by phone. A phone call to the doctor is not a cause for alarm, just a need for more information.
Your bone density is compared to standards, or norms, known as “age matched” and “young normal”. The age-matched reading compares your bone density to what is expected in someone of your age, sex, and size. The young normal reading compares your results to the best peak bone mass of a healthy young adult of the same sex. The health care provider that ordered this test will report the results to you.
Reference: National Osteoporosis Foundation: www.NOF.org
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6590.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/11/2012
Copyright © 10/11/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5646
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