The Bone Density DEXA Scan - Is It Right for You?
Did you know? The DXA body composition scan offered by BodySpec is not the only kind of DXA scan out there. In fact, if you see a DXA machine at a hospital, it’ll most likely be for a different purpose - to measure bone density.
If you’ve already gotten a DXA scan measurement for body fat, you may wonder - is a bone density DXA scan also right for you?
When Should You Get A Bone Density DXA Scan?
A bone density DXA scan is primarily needed when a person may be at risk for osteoporosis.
If you may be at risk, your doctor may prescribe you a bone density DXA scan at a hospital or imaging center.
Risk factors may include:
- Age - The older you get, the greater your risk.
- Gender - Women are more likely to be at risk than men.
- Ethnicity - You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re of white or Asian descent.
- Family history of osteoporosis - Genetics play a large part in bone health.
- Fracture history - Having had many fractures can be an indication of low bone density.
- Certain medical conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, celiac disease, lupus, and eating disorders lead to higher risk of osteoporosis.
- The use of certain medications such as corticosteroids may increase your risk of osteoporosis.
What Happens During a Bone Density DXA Scan?
Unlike the body composition DXA scan that goes from head to toe, the bone density exam takes measurements only at three specific sites: the lumbar spine, hip, and forearm.
Your technician will position you to acquire x-ray images from those locations. Results are then analyzed by a doctor to determine whether you have osteoporosis.
Based on the results, your doctor may decide whether to prescribe treatments to improve your bone density, such as exercise or medication. You would most likely need to continue that treatment for over a year or more before getting a follow up test to measure improvement.
What About the Bone Density Score on My Body Composition DXA Scan?
Even though the body composition DXA scan passes over your lumbar spine, hip, and arms, this test does not provide the level of detail needed to render a diagnosis of disease at those sites.
While BodySpec’s body composition DXA scans do give a whole body bone density score, this score is non-diagnostic. That means it won’t tell you if you have osteoporosis. Rather, it’s meant to be a general bone health sanity check.
It is possible to have a normal non-diagnostic whole body bone density score, but still score low in those specific diagnostic regions. It is also possible to have a low overall whole body score, but not score low enough in the diagnostic sites to result in a diagnosis of osteoporosis.
If your non-diagnostic bone density score seems very low or you have other risk factors, you may want to bring up your concerns with your doctor.
Resources for Bone Density Information
BodySpec does not offer bone density exams to the public at this time.
But if you’re interested in learning more about bone density and getting a bone density test, American Bone Health offers some great information and resources about bone health, including an informational hotline and fracture risk calculator.
If you have specific concerns about your individual risk profile, please speak to your doctor.