A bone mineral density (BMD) scan is a test that uses X-rays to measure how much calcium and other minerals are contained in a segment of bone. It is used for doctors for a number of purposes, including:
- assessing your risk for fractures
- diagnosing osteoporosis (a condition where the bone becomes less dense and fragile)
- monitoring progress or treatment of osteoporosis
Your doctor will determine if you need to undergo a BMD. In general, a BMD scan may be recommended if you:
- are a man over the age of 70
- are over the age of 50 with risk factors for osteoporosis
- are a woman over the age of 65
- are being treated for osteoporosis
- have had past fractures or family history of osteoporosis or fractures
- have had significant loss of height
- have certain medical conditions that increase the risk of osteoporosis (such as hyperparathyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, or rheumatoid arthritis)
- have been treated with steroids for a long time (more than 3 months)
Risks and precautions
The BMD scan is very safe. You will however be exposed to low levels of radiation and therefore this test is not recommended for pregnant women.
Before the test
Be sure to remove any jewelry or metals from your body since they can interfere with the scan. You should also tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or have had a recent medical procedure where a contrast dye was used. Contrast dyes used in medical tests can also interfere with the results of the BMD scan.
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the test. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.