A bone densitometry – also known as a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) – is a type of test done to assess the strength of the bones and the likelihood of fracture in those at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Osteopenia is the condition in which patients have lower than normal bone density, while osteoporosis is having a much lower than normal density. The primary goal of a DEXA scan is to identify one of these conditions.
If you are at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis, contact rheumatologist Dr. Susan A. Baker, a “Most Compassionate Doctor” award winner, to set up your consultation today in Los Angeles.
How a Bone Densitometry is Performed
A bone densitometry test is a simple, fast, and non-invasive rheumatological procedure that uses x-rays to produce images of bones. The test is done on an outpatient basis and takes between 10 and 30 minutes. During this time, the patient will be asked to lie on a padded table. It is important that patients remain very still during the test. They may also be asked to hold their breath for a few seconds at a time while the image is being created.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Studies have shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis are at greater risk for bone loss and fracture. This is true for a variety of reasons including the way the glucocorticoid medications that are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can trigger bone loss. In addition, certain symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as pain and stiffness, can decrease physical activity. This leaves the patient at a higher risk for osteoporosis. Studies have also shown that rheumatoid arthritis may have a direct link to osteoporosis, as the rate of bone loss is often higher around the affected joints.
To learn more about DEXA, visit medlineplus.gov
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the difference between a DEXA and an X-ray?
A: While an ordinary X-ray is better for detecting a recent bone fracture, a bone densitometry is much better for osteoporosis. This is because a bone densitometry measures the calcium content of bones, which is directly related to the thickness of bones.
Q: What should I do to prepare for a densitometry scan?
A: There are no specific requirements for patients undergoing bone densitometry testing. You can eat regular meals and continue to take your medication. Women, however, should inform their doctors if they are pregnant or think they might be pregnant, as the radiation could potentially harm the fetus.
Q: What are the potential side effects of a densitometry scan?
A: As is the case with other X-ray procedures, there is a small risk of cancer due to repeated exposure to radiation. However, when compared to other types of X-ray tests, the radiation from a bone densitometry is significantly less.
Q: What do the results of my densitometry scan mean?
A: Once your DEXA is completed, a radiologist will analyze your test and send a report to your doctor. The results will show two scores, the T-score and the Z-score. The T-score compares the amount of bone you have with that of a healthy 30-year old of the same gender. A score of -1.0 or above is considered normal bone density. A score between -1 and -2.5 is low bone density, or osteopenia. And a score below -2.5 is considered osteoporosis. The Z-score shows how much bone you have compared to people within same age group, size, race, and gender as you.
Q: What can I do to reduce my risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis?
A: It is important to make sure you get sufficient calcium and vitamin D. You should also exercise regularly.
Contact a Los Angeles Rheumatologist for a Bone Mineral Density Test
Are you at risk for osteoporosis? If you think you might be, or are unsure about the health of your bones, then contact Dr. Baker for an appointment. Call today at (310) 274-7770 to set up your appointment at our Los Angeles office.
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