Bone Density Test (DEXA)

A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become more fragile, and likely to break.

A bone density test uses x-rays to measure the amount of calcium and minerals in a segment of bone.  The bones that are most commonly measured are the hip, spine, and forearm.

A DEXA can

  • identify decreases in bone density before you break a bone
  • determine your risk of broken bones
  • monitor the success of your osteoporosis treatment


Bone density tests are easy, fast, and painless.  Virtually no preparation is needed.

Please tell us if you may be pregnant, or if you have recently had a barium enema,or a CT with contrast, as these agents can interfere with the test.

During the test:

You will lie on a padded  table, while a mechanical arm passes over your body.

The amount of radiation is very low, much less than a chest x-ray.

The test usually takes less than 10 minutes.


Your results are reported in two numbers, a t score and a z score.  The t score is your bone density compared with the normal bone density of a healthy young adult.  The z score is your bone density compared with the average bone density of  adults your age.

The t score defines whether you have normal bone density, osteopenia, or osteoporosis.

Normal: t score -1 or above

Osteopenia: t score between -1 and -2.5

Osteoporosis: t score -2.5 and below

Your doctor can further explain your results and discuss what measures are recommended to help you prevent fractures.

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