A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures how much calcium and other types of minerals are present in a section of your bone. We use this test, along with other risk factors, to predict your risk of bone fractures in the future. Bone fracture risk is highest in people with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (or porous bone) is a disease in which bones become weak and are more likely to break. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress without pain or symptoms until a bone breaks (fractures). Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of more than 1.5 million fractures annually (300,000 hip fractures, approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures in other areas).
How to Prepare for the Test
Remove any jewelry before the test. Inform us if you may be pregnant.
How the Test Will Feel
The scan is painless, although you will need to remain still during the test.
Why the Test is Performed:
Guidelines recommend screening for those who are thought to be at increased risk for osteoporosis:
- 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 fracture in any man or woman over age 50
- Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
- Early menopause (either from natural causes or surgery)
- History of hormone treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer
- Significant loss of height (See: Compression fractures of the back)
- Strong family history of osteoporosis
- Taking corticosteroid medications (prednisone, methylprednisolone) every day for more than 3 months
- Three or more drinks of alcohol per day on most days
BMD testing involves exposure to a low level of radiation. Most experts feel that the risk is very low compared with the benefits of identifying osteoporosis before you break a bone.