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Ever Wanted to Know? Bone Density versus Bone Scan

Bones are the literal framework of our bodies. They protect our internal organs and store essential nutrients.
Bones are necessary for movement, transmitting the force of muscle contractions. Blood cells are formed within our bones. Considering their importance, maintaining bone health and strength is a vital part of your overall health picture.

Many medical conditions involve bone health. These may include fractures, wear and tear, inflammation or cancer. As we grow older, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis may develop. Various tests and examinations can be used to detect problems or even prevent them. Imaging techniques include bone density tests and bone scans. Each plays an important role in diagnosis and treatment of bone problems.

Bone Density versus Bone ScanA bone density test, also referred to as a DEXA scan, is a noninvasive test that measures calcium and other minerals in your bones. It measures the strength and thickness, or mass, of your bones. As we age, bones naturally become thinner. Osteopenia occurs when bones are thinner than normal. This places you at higher risk for the more progressive disease of osteoporosis, where bones become brittle. Osteoporosis generally affects those over the age of 65, especially women. Patients with osteoporosis can more easily develop bone fractures of the hips or wrists.

DEXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. In simple terms, two x-ray beams are aimed at the bones resulting in the ability for a DEXA scan to detect changes in bone mass as small as 1%. DEXA scans are ordered by your physician to diagnose osteopenia and osteoporosis, as well as to indicate the progress of treatment for these issues.

The DEXA bone density test requires no preparation, and they are usually completed in a matter of minutes. You will lay flat on a table during the exam. There is no pain involved. Results of your examination can be compared with earlier exams to determine the rate of any bone loss.

A bone scan differs from the bone density test. A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test your doctor may order if you have unexplained pain, bone infection or injury that is not diagnosed on standard chest radiograph. It can also be an effective tool in detecting cancer that may have metastasized to the bone from its original location.

During a bone scan, a radioactive tracer is injected into a vein and absorbed into the bones. This radioactive material is harmless and emits less radiation than a standard CT scan. A radiologist uses a specialized camera to take images of the bone immediately following injection and several hours later. This allows the physician to note how the tracer has moved through the bone over time. Presence or absence of tracer material can show where there is a problem. Preparation for this exam is minimal. Other than the needle stick in your arm, there is no pain associated with obtaining images during a bone scan.

When your doctor recommends a bone density test, choose Watson Imaging for fast and professional imaging. Watson Imaging Center offers same day service in a clean and welcoming environment. Call (314) 781-9711 or schedule online today.

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