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Bone Density

Bone Density, Bone Densitometry or Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is a procedure that uses X-ray to determine bone strength. The purpose of BMD is to identify bone mass, detect bone loss and determine bone quality. This can help in the early detection of osteoporosis before fractures occur, help determine the likelihood of future fractures and predict the rate of bone loss.

Bone Density procedures include:

  • Bone Density Appendicular (forearm)
  • Bone Density Axial (hips and spine)

If you have questions regarding the procedure your physician has ordered, please call (734) 712-8420 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to be connected with specialized staff that can answer your questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why measure bone density?
Low bone density is the greatest risk factor for spine and hip fractures.  Each year there are approximately 700,000 spine fractures and 250,000 hip fractures in the United States.  More than 90 percent of these occur in people with bone density measurement in the osteoporotic range.  The association between low bone density and osteoporotic fracture is similar to the association between cholesterol and heart disease, or blood pressure and stroke.  Like cholesterol level and blood pressure, bone density is a risk factor that can be changed.  You can’t do much about other risk factors such as age, sex, race, or genetic background, but low bone mass can be prevented and treated.  Your physician can use the results of a bone density test to determine if medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis is advisable for you.

Is a bone density scan the same as a bone scan?
No.  The two studies are often confused because they sound alike, but they are different techniques used for different purposes.  A bone scan is a nuclear medicine study used to look for cancer, stress fractures, and other bone or joint problems.  It does not measure bone density and is not used to diagnose osteoporosis.

How do I prepare for a bone density scan?
No special patient preparation is necessary.  We only ask that you don’t wear anything with buttons, snaps, or zippers from the waist down. Wearing pants with an elastic waistband will allow you to remain fully clothed during the study. Please bring the bone densitometry requisition from your referring physician.

If you have had any X-rays using oral contrast or barium, please wait one week before having a bone density scan.  If you have had any nuclear medicine procedures, please check with your referring physician to verify when you can have a bone density (scan).

What can I expect to happen during the bone density scan?
Bone density scan is a painless, non-invasive test.  You will be asked to lie still and quiet on a padded table, but you will be able to breathe normally.  The study lasts only a few minutes.  The X-ray dose you will be exposed to is extremely low, similar to what you would receive on a long-distance airplane flight.

How will I get the results?
The results of your bone density scan will be sent to your referring physician within approximately ten business days.  You should arrange to discuss the results with your physician.

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St. Joseph Mercy Livingston | 620 Byron Road, Howell, MI 48843 | 517-545-6000