Bone Density Tests: A Comprehensive Guide

Health is an intricate part of our daily life, with its share of complexities, including the myriad of screening tools that we can encounter in our health journey. Among them is the bone density test, an essential tool in modern healthcare. But what exactly is a bone density test and why does it matter? In this guide, we delve deeper into this crucial diagnostic process, spotlighting the relationship between Radiology and your GP.

Unearthing The Science Behind Bone Density Tests

A bone density test, also known as a DEXA or BMD scan, uses a special type of x-ray called a dual energy x-ray (DXA) to measure the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones. The higher the mineral content, the denser—and typically, stronger—the bones are. We perform bone density testing to assess the risk of developing or extent, of osteopenia or osteoporosis and as such, your risk of any future bone fractures.

You are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis if you are a male over 60 years of age or a female over 50 years of age who also:

  • Has a family history of a fragility fracture, particularly hip fracture
  • Has a history of recurrent falls
  • Smokes, or drinks high volumes of alcohol
  • Has a Vitamin D deficiency
  • Is immobile

Early menopause and certain health conditions can also predispose people to weaker bones.

Radiology Toolkit: Technologies Powering Bone Density Testing

  • Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA): This machine produces two X-ray beams that have different energy levels. It’s highly accurate and considered the ‘gold standard’ for measuring bone mineral density.
  • Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT): QCT scanning offers the advantage of visualising bone structure in 3D.

A Radiographer or Medical Imaging Technician, will perform these scans, ensuring your safety and comfort, whilst obtaining precise, high-quality images; and the Radiologist (the Medical Imaging Specialist) will interpret and report these results for you.

Pre-test Procedures: Journey Through A Patient’s Eyes

When you arrive, you will begin with some paperwork and then you are called into the DEXA room. You may be asked to get changed into a gown- by avoiding metal like zips in your clothing, you may skip this step. The Radiographer will ask you some questions about your risk factors and medical history and the test itself is quite quick, from 15-30 minutes. Usually your hips and lumbar spine are scanned, sometimes also your forearm. Throughout this process, the patient’s comfort and understanding are prioritised, with the radiographer carefully positioning them on the machine and explaining each step of the test.

Unveiling Results: Deciphering Bone Density Test Reports

Radiologists read the results of your bone density test through a score called a T-score.

  • A T-score of -1.0 or above is considered normal.
  • A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 signals low bone density or osteopenia.
  • A T-score of -2.5 or below is a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

These results guide your healthcare team in formulating a treatment plan that suits your specific health requirements and objectives. Your score also determines the frequency of any follow-up scans.

When Radiologists And Clinicians Collaborate: Ensuring Optimal Bone Health

Radiologists and clinicians often work together to achieve optimal patient outcomes. Collaboration facilitates a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and managing conditions related to bone health. With the radiologist’s expert interpretation of imaging results and the clinician’s in-depth understanding of the patient’s overall health, a holistic and individualised treatment plan can be formulated.

Take The Next Step Towards Your Bone Health Today

At InFocus Radiology, we are committed to your health and well-being. Leveraging the latest imaging technologies, our team provides high-quality, accurate imaging services and reporting. Recognising the complexities of bone health, we work with your healthcare team to provide a comprehensive and individualised approach. For further information or to book a consultation, feel free to get in touch by giving us a call today.