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Diseases > Bone Mineral Density

Bone Mineral Density

What is it?

A bone mineral density test is used to measure how strong your bones are. By measuring how strong your bones are it gives us some idea of your risk of having a fracture.  This test typically measures the bone density in two spots – your hip and your lower back. You’ll get the result of the test as a T-score.  The T-score is a measure of how strong your bones are compared to a young healthy adult.  The T-score falls into 3 ranges:

  • Normal Bone Density: T-score between -1 and 0
  • Reduced Bone Density (called osteopenia): T-score between -1 and -2.5
  • Low Bone Density (called osteoporosis): T-score less than -2.5

IMPORTANT : Le test de densité minérale osseuse est très différent de la scintigraphie osseuse. Les gens ont tendance à les confondre mais il s’agit de deux tests complètement différents.

How is it done?

The test itself is very simple and takes about 10-20 minutes.  It is completely painless. You’ll lie down on a table while a special x-ray machine passes over you.  The test is usually repeated every 1-3 years depending on your risk.  For example, if you’ve got strong bones with no other risk factors for fracture then every 3 years would be fine.  On the other hand, if you’ve got thin bones, are taking a medication like prednisone, and have had a fracture in the past then you might need to have it checked every year.

IMPORTANT: You must have your bone density tested on the same machine every time. Each machine is a little different.  It’s like your scale at home – you have to use the same one all the time to keep accurate track of your weight!

Who needs it?

Download the “Choosing Wisely” pamphlet on bone mineral density for more information on who needs a BMD scan.

  • Women over age 65 and men over age 70
  • Women under age 65 and men ages 50 – 70 who have risk factors such as:
    • A previous fracture caused caused by normal activities, such as a fall from standing height or less (“fragility fracture”)
    • A chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis or kidney disease
    • Menopause before the age of 45
    • History of hormone treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer
    • Significant loss of height
    • Smoking
    • Strong family history of osteoporosis (mom or dad fractured a hip)
    • Taking prednisone every day for more than 3 months
    • Three or more drinks of alcohol per day on most days

If you are being treated for osteoporosis, BMD testing can help your health care provider monitor your response to treatment.