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Bone Densitometry

Bone DensitometryBone Densitometry examinations are performed by technologists specially trained in performing the test. It is used to measure the mineral density of bones. The test is done using special X-rays to measure the amounts of calcium and other minerals in your bones.

Low bone density, called osteoporosis, is a condition in which there is a decreased density of bone making them fragile and more likely to fracture. Low bone density is most often associated with age and family history but can also be caused by certain medications that cause bone loss (e.g. steroids).

The examination may require you to lie on a table. The X-ray machine will be positioned over the part of the body being imaged such as the spine and hips. With other types of equipment, you may be required to sit if scanning is only required of your wrists and arms.

Tests are typically performed in bones that are most likely to break when fragile, such as the lower region of the spine (back), the upper segment of the femur (leg), hip bones, wrist and forearm bones. The procedure is totally painless and usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Who should have a bone density test?
In Canada, 1.4 million people suffer from osteoporosis. One in four women over the age of 50 and one in eight men over the age of 50 has the disease.

Since there are no signs or symptoms of bone loss (until you have a break or fracture), bone density tests are usually used to screen for osteoporosis. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age as bones become weaker. Tests are usually ordered for:

  • Patients with a family history of the disease
  • Post-menopausal women not taking estrogen supplements
  • Patients with a personal history of fractures 
  • Patients with type I diabetes, liver or kidney disease 
  • Patients who are taking medications that decrease bone density


Updated May 9, 2019