Skip to content

    Osteoporosis Health Center

    Font Size

    Bone 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, DXA is recommended to confirm the results. Ultrasound uses sound waves to measure bone density, 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 (DXA) Test?

    Health Tools

    Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

    Why It Is Done

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

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    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.

    Today on WebMD

    Women working out and walking with weights
    Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
    Chinese cabbage
    Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
    woman stretching
    Get the facts on osteoporosis.
    Porous bone
    Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
    senior woman
    Woman holding plate of brocolli
    wrist xray
    Superfood for Bones
    mature woman
    sunlight in hands
    man and woman in front of xray
    woman with dumbbells