Diagnosing osteoporosis

Diagnosing osteoporosis

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test is often referred to as a DXA (dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry). The scan measures the density (strength) of your bones.

How is the test done?

You are usually fully clothed during the test, and it takes about fifteen minutes. You lie flat on your back on a padded table and remain still while the ‘arm’ of the machine passes over your whole body, or over selected areas. To measure the spine, hip and arm, your body will be placed in slightly different positions to ensure the most accurate read.

Is it dangerous and does it hurt?

The machine uses very little radiation, which does not pose any risks. The test also does not require any needles or instruments placed in the body. The procedure is usually short and painless.

What is a T-Score?

A T-Score is what you call the result of a bone density test. A score higher than -1 is normal. A score between -1 and -2.5 means you have osteopaenia (low bone density) and if you have lower than -2.5, it means you have osteoporosis.

How can I get a DXA test?

Your GP will assess your risk factors for osteoporosis before referring you for a test. Such risk factors include medical history, family history, lifestyle factors and age.

Where can I get a DXA test?

They are normally available at most large hospitals and many private radiology centres and nuclear medicine practices. Some specialists may also offer this service.

Is there a Medicare rebate?

There is a Medicare rebate under specific circumstances. These include but are not limited to:

• If you are over 70

• If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or an osteoporotic fracture

• If you have an influencing medical condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease or chronic kidney or liver disease).

What about a heel ultrasound?

You may see advertisements, particularly in chemists, advertising Heel Ultrasounds as a way to measure bone density. Osteoporosis Australia does not recommend this procedure as it cannot give you a definite measure of bone strength or predict risk of fracture.

How strong are your bones?

For more information on osteoporosis, click here.