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Bone Mineral Density

Ultrasound is a screening test that is sometimes offered at events such as health fairs. It is only used to look for problems. If results from an ultrasound test find low bone density, DEXA is recommended to confirm the results. Ultrasound uses sound waves to measure BMD, usually in your heel. Ultrasound is quick, painless, and does not use potentially harmful radiation like X-rays. One disadvantage of ultrasound is it can't measure the density of the bones most likely to fracture from osteoporosis (the hip and spine). Ultrasound is not used to keep track of how well medicine for osteoporosis is working.

Before being screened for osteoporosis, you may want to think about what you will do if the tests show that you have a high chance of getting osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis: Should I Have a Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) Test?

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Osteoporosis: Should I Have a Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) Test?

Why It Is Done

A bone mineral density (BMD) test is suggested for:

  • All women who are age 65 or older, and younger women who are at increased risk for broken bones caused by osteoporosis.1
  • Men with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as being older than 70.
  • Men and women who have hyperparathyroidism.
  • Men and women who have been taking corticosteroids, such as prednisone, for a long time.
  • Follow-up of how well treatment for osteoporosis is working for men and women being treated for 2 years or longer.

How To Prepare

Avoid wearing clothes with metal buttons or buckles for the test. You also may want to remove any jewelry that might interfere with the scan, such as a bracelet if you are having the scan done on your wrist.

How It Is Done

A bone mineral density (BMD) scan is usually done in the special radiology department or clinic by a technologist. Peripheral dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (P-DEXA) machines are portable units that can be used in a doctor's office.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 30, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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