Radiology Exams

Bone Density Scans

Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and reformed. As a person grows, bone forms faster than it breaks down until it reaches a peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 35. After age 35, both men and women lose bone mass at a greater rate than it forms, causing bone loss. After menopause women start to lose bone mass at a much more rapid rate than men of the same age.

As a greater amount of bone mass is lost, the bones become porous and brittle, a disease known as Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects over 10 million Americans with 34 million at risk. Annually, this disease is responsible for over 2 million fractures, of which 250,000 are hip fractures. To assist in diagnosing low bone density, a bone density scan can be done. This examination estimates the amount of bone mineral content in specific areas of the body, including the spine, hip and forearm. Early detection is the best way to protect against Osteoporosis.

Osteoporotic Fractures
Osteoporosis may go unnoticed if it is asymptomatic. Signs that there has been a reduction in bone mass include low back pain, loss of height over time often accompanied by stooped posture, and minimal trauma fractures. As bone mass decreases, the risk of fracture grows. The three principal sites of osteoporotic fractures occur in the spinal vertebrae, hip, and the wrist. Fractures of the proximal femur, or hip, may occur spontaneously or result from minor accidents. Fractures of the distal wrist, or Colles’ fractures, often result from a fall on an outstretched hand. Compression fractures in the lower spine result from a decrease in the trabecular bone of the vertebral bodies. These can be caused by little or no trauma. Deformities of the spine may occur due to a collapse of these injured vertebrae. Dorsal kyphosis, or Dowager’s Hump, often results from fractures to the front of the vertebral body.

Indications of Bone Densitometry
Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis. In women, the cessation of estrogen production at menopause induces an acceleration of bone loss. Excessive loss in men is often linked to disease, certain medications, or secondary factors such as alcohol abuse. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis are called “risk factors”. The NOF has identified the following risk factors:

  • Female
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Anorexia nervosa or bulimia
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids and anticonvulsants
  • Thin and/or small frame
  • Postmenopause
  • Diet low in calcium
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • Advanced age
  • Amenorrhea
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Being Caucasian or Asian

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