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What Is Bone Mineral Density Testing?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis and nearly 34 million more have osteopenia, which puts them at greater risk for osteoporosis.

Bone mineral density(BMD) is related to bone strength. BMD testing is used to diagnose osteoporosis. BMD is measured with a test called a DXA scan. By measuring BMD, doctors can predict the risk of having a bone fracture.

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A bone density scan, or test, should not be confused with a bone scan, which is used to find tumors, cancer, fractures, and infections in the bone.

What Do Bone Mineral Density Test Results Mean?

  • Normal: Bones have a density that is healthy.
  • Low bone mass (medically termed osteopenia): Bones show the beginning of bone loss, but not enough to be osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis: Bones are weak and porous, and more likely to break.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on October 24, 2014
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