If you are at risk for osteoporosis—a medical condition in which bones become brittle and more likely to break—your doctor may recommend a bone density scan. Also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) or bone densitometry, a bone density scan measures the strength and density of your bones.
For your convenience, Emerson Hospital offers state-of-the-art bone density tests at the Hermel Breast Health Center in Concord, Westford Health Center and Emerson Medical in Sudbury.
Why a bone density scan is performed
If you have lost height, had a bone fracture, have history of taking steroid medications such as prednisone, or have had a drop in hormone levels, your doctor may use bone density testing to:
- Identify decreases in bone density before you break a(nother) bone
- Determine your risk of breaking a(nother) bone
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis
- Determine if osteoporosis treatment is necessary
- Monitor osteoporosis treatment
Although osteoporosis is more common in older women, men also can develop the condition.
What a bone density scan involves
A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are in a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are those in the spine, hip and forearm.
The higher the mineral content of your bones, the denser your bones are. And the denser your bones, the stronger they tend to be—and the less likely they are to break.
For the exam, you will lie on a padded platform while a mechanical arm passes over your body and takes X-rays. The amount of radiation you're exposed to is less than the amount emitted during a chest X-ray. The test usually takes 10 to 30 minutes.
To obtain test results
By law, this requires a signed medical records release form and photo identification. To make a request, please call:
schedule an appointment
To schedule an appointment for a bone density test, please call 978-287-3003