A DEXA (DXA) Scan Assesses Bone Health
DEXA bone density tests are useful tools to help screen asymptomatic patients to determine risk of getting fractures. They are also useful for monitoring bone density over time in patients with known osteoporosis.
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What is a DEXA Bone Density Scan?
A bone density scan (also called bone densitometry or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or DEXA) is commonly used to diagnose osteoporosis. It uses a very low-radiation X-ray to evaluate bone density by measuring the mineral content of bones. The test is safe, quick, and painless.
How Does a Bone Density Scan Help?
DEXA scans are inexpensive tests that help determine whether you have osteoporosis, are at risk for osteoporosis, or can be used to determine your risk level for fractures. Subsequent scans can also help monitor disease progression in patients with known osteoporosis. While a bone density scan can help determine bone strength, it does not measure bone quality, which may be inhibited by other factors. Combining your bone density test results with other information, we can predict your future fracture risk based on what the risk seen in people with similar physical characteristics (age, height, weight, gender, race). For patients who have never had a fragility fracture, this can help us determine who should undergo prescription medical treatment to reduce fracture risk and whose fracture risk is low enough to avoid treatment at this time.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle, leaving you more susceptible to fractures. It commonly affects the spine by causing vertebral compression fractures. Osteoporosis may also cause fractures of the hip, wrist, forearm, or other areas. Risk factors that may increase the potential for osteoporosis include: age, hormonal changes, certain medications, lifestyle choices, and other disorders. Many people are surprised that some common medications can lead to osteoporosis.
What’s the Difference Between Primary & Secondary Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis associated with low bone density is known as “Primary Osteoporosis.” Patients with “Secondary Osteoporosis” can have normal bone density, but low bone quality due to conditions such as vitamin D deficiency, smoking, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, vasculitis or certain medications such as steroids, proton-pump inhibitors, blood thinners (such as warfarin or heparin) or anti-depressants known as SSRIs.
Who Should Get a Bone Density Scan?
The DEXA bone density scan uses a very low dose of X-rays to provide an accurate and safe measurement of bone density. We recommend bone density tests for people concerned they might have osteoporosis, a person who has fallen and broken a bone as an adult, or people with a family history of osteoporosis who want to know their risk for fracture.
Any person over the age of 65 should get tested if not previously screened. If you have had a hip fracture, spinal fracture, wrist fracture, or if you have a hunchback (kyphosis), you should get tested.
A bone density scan is also recommended for those taking certain high-risk medications that increase the risk for low bone quality. These include: blood thinners, PPI medications, purple pills, some antidepressant, anti-anxiety medications, steroids, anti-seizure medications, and others.
Those with high risk medical conditions should consider a bone density test. These include: diabetes, vasculitis (such as patients with lupus, diabetes or smokers), rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, low vitamin D, low testosterone, low estrogen, prolonged immobilization, post-hysterectomy.
If you have other reasons to be concerned about osteoporosis, like adoption, unknown family history or other circumstances – it’s a good idea to get tested.
Limitations of Bone Density Scores
It is important to note that your DXA score isn’t everything. It only tells one half of the story – the bone density. Bone quality is at least as important (and in many cases more important) than bone density. Bone quality can be affected by a variety of medications and conditions as listed above. Lastly, bone quality can also be affected by lifestyle choices such as smoking and excess alcohol intake. There is not one simple test for bone quality, and this requires an experienced physician to arrive at an individual diagnosis based on history and physical exam.
Patient Reviews & Testimonials
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Dr. James Webb & Associates, 6550 E 71st St #200, Tulsa, OK 74133