Medical Evaluations/Bone Mass Measurements

Health Information
Medical Evaluation

The first step in UW Health's osteoporosis assessment is obtaining a complete medical history. This includes a review of a person's family history, determination of calcium/vitamin D intake and assessment of the presence or history of diseases/medications or lifestyle factors (alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, physical inactivity) which are associated with bone loss.
Subsequently, a physical examination will be performed for evaluation of potential causes of osteoporosis. This will include an assessment of falls risk by checking blood pressure, vision and balance. Subsequently, laboratory tests are often done to assure that other diseases are not contributing to bone loss.

Bone Mass Measurement
Bone mass measurement is an essential part of osteoporosis evaluation. This usually will consist of having bone density measured at the hip and spine using a low-dose X-ray technique, if this has not been done recently. Individuals that are having back pain, have lost several inches of height or appear to be "stooped" may also have spine X-rays. After having evaluated the history, physical examination, laboratory and bone density results, individualized treatment recommendations are made.

There are several methods available to measure bone density. By far the most common is dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, often referred to as "DXA" or bone density scan. This low-dose x-ray technology is used to assess bone mass at the hip, spine and sometimes forearm and determines how dense the bone is by measuring X-ray absorbed by bone and tissue. For this painless test, which is completed in less than 15 minutes, a person lies flat on an open table.