Bone scans are a fast, simple way to measure the concentration of minerals in your bones. When your bones are dense with minerals, they’re strong and resist breakage. But if your bones lose density, they become more porous and fracture more easily.
Normal, healthy bone mass consists of about 65% hydroxyapatite, 25% water, 10% of a collagen and protein bone matrix, and small amounts of magnesium, sodium, and bicarbonate.
As you age, your estrogen or testosterone levels drop and your bones begin to lose density and strength, putting you at risk for fractures.
Our expert rheumatologists at the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey recommend regular bone scans if you:
- Are a postmenopausal woman age 50 or over
- Are a man over 50 at risk for fractures
- Lost at least 1.5 inches of height
- Are becoming hunched
- Suffer from unexplained back pain
- Have a fracture after age 50
- Had an organ transplant
- Have decreases in your hormone levels
- Used steroids over the long term
A DXA scan is a noninvasive X-ray that lets us see inside your bones to determine if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Osteoporosis is a significant loss of bone mass, while osteopenia is a smaller loss of bone mass, but is a precursor to osteoporosis.
The results help us decide on a treatment plan to ensure that your bones regain or maintain strength.
Preparing for your bone scan
Bone densitometry scans are fast and easy. Nevertheless, you should prepare yourself ahead of time so you know what to expect and what you should do the day of your scan.
Skip your calcium supplement
Don’t take a calcium supplement within 24 hours of your bone scan. The calcium in the supplement could throw off your results. Also, wait at least seven days after undergoing any procedure that requires the injection of contrast dye. The dye could interfere with your reading.
Leave jewelry and zippers at home
Just as you need to remove metal jewelry, belts, and other metal objects before going through the scanner at an airport, you must remove any jewelry or metal that’s on your torso, hips, arms, and legs.
To avoid losing something precious, just leave it at home. And try to wear clothing that doesn’t have any metal zippers, snaps, or buttons.
Wear loose clothing
You must climb onto the examination table and lie on your back during your bone scan. Wear loose, comfortable clothing so you can move freely and feel at ease.
Know your risk going in
Some risk factors for osteoporosis and osteopenia are beyond your control. You may wish to prepare yourself mentally if you’re at high risk for bones that are less dense than optimal. Risk factors include:
- Having a small frame
- Being thin or underweight
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
Lifestyle factors, such as a diet that’s low in calcium and other minerals, and a lack of weight-bearing activity may also raise your risk for bone loss. Some medical conditions affect your bone density, too.
Understanding your results
You don’t get your bone scan results directly after your test, but within a week or so, we call you to discuss your results.
You get two numbers: a T-score, which is a comparison your bones with that of healthy, young bones, and a Z-score, which compares your bones to other people your own age, sex, and ethnicity.
- T-score of -1 and above is normal
- T-score between -1 and -2.5 is lower than normal (i.e., you have osteopenia),
- T-score of -2.5 and below means you have osteoporosis
If your Z-score is lower than expected, we may order further tests to determine if you have an underlying medical condition that’s contributing to your bone loss.
Once you know your T-score and Z-score, we discuss your options with you. If your bones are normal, we recommend you continue eating healthy, calcium-rich foods, and getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise.
If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, we may recommend lifestyle changes and medications to increase your bone density.
Find out how your bones are faring by scheduling a bone densitometry today. Contact us at the office nearest you — in Somerville, Flemington, or Monroe, New Jersey.