Medical Imaging Northwest | Bone Densitometry

Bone Densitometry

What is Bone Densitometry?

Osteoporosis is a generalized, progressive reduction of bone density that often leads to skeletal weakness. It is a debilitating disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. In fact, Osteoporosis is a leading cause of fractures in men and women over the age of 65.

Bone densitometry measures the bone denseness in various sites of the body and can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs. In other words, this exam helps predict your chances of future fracture and determine your current rate of bone loss. This information can assist the physician in diagnosing osteoporosis and advising you in appropriate preventions and treatment for this disease.

The bone densitometer uses small amounts of x-ray to produce images of the spine, hip, forearm, or whole body. The x-ray is composed of two energy levels, which are absorbed differently by the bones in the body. The test may also be referred to as a DEXA scan (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry). A computer is able to determine from the differences in bone absorption how much bone mineral is present. The spine and hip are measured most frequently since that is where osteoporotic fractures most often occur.

How should I prepare?


Bone densitometry studies are now offered in our Puyallup and Sunrise Imaging Centers or may be scheduled with the Radiology Department at Allenmore Hospital. When making your appointment, please let us know if you have had any back or hip surgeries in the past.

Normal clothing may be worn; however, belt buckles, metal or thick plastic buttons, and metal jewelry will need to be removed from the area being examined. The technologist will position the patient's arms and legs for the test, which is painless and takes about ten minutes.

You are asked not to take vitamins or calcium pills the day of the examination.

Also, please make arrangements to keep your children at home on the day of your appointment.

There are no childcare services onsite...and due to the presence of radiation, children are not allowed to enter exam rooms during imaging procedures.

What should I expect?


The bone densitometer is similar to a large examination table. Your name, age, height, weight, and ethnicity are entered into the computer prior to the test. This information is used to compare your results to a "normal" reference group.

The amount of x-rays absorbed is about 1/10th of that received from a chest x-ray. This is comparable to the naturally occurring radiation a person is exposed to in one week. Even though the x-ray dose is very low, you will be asked to inform our staff if you are pregnant or might be pregnant before the test is conducted.

The test compares the bone mineral density to that of a young adult at peak bone strength. It also compares individual results to people of the same age. This information is used to gauge the risk of osteoporotic fracture. The difference between your results and that of a "young adult" is given as a T-score. The World Health Organization has developed categories that define the amount of bone loss:
  • Normal: T-score that is above-1
  • Osteopenic: T-score is between -1 and -2.5 (low bone density)
  • Osteoporosis: T-score below -2.5

Results are usually available 3 working days after the procedure. Please contact your referring physician for results at that time.

Which location offers Bone Densitometry?
  • Puyallup Imaging Center
  • Sunrise Image Center

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