What to Expect During Your Bone Scan

What to Expect During Your Bone Scan

Strong, healthy bones are densely packed with minerals such as calcium and continually renew themselves by getting rid of tired, old bone cells and replacing them with fresh, healthy new ones. 

But as you age, your bones slow down their production of new bone cells and your bones become more porous. 

At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, we recommend that you get about 1,000 g each day of calcium from dietary and supplement sources, plus magnesium, vitamin D, and other nutrients to continue making bone cells. 

Your bones also need to be stressed with weight-bearing exercise to trigger bone cell production.

bone scan, also called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DXA scan, shows how dense your bones are. Bone scans are an important evaluation of your bone health.

Protect your bones with knowledge

No matter what your age, it’s never too early to take bone health seriously and try to build up a bank of bone cells and minerals so that the withdrawals of aging do less harm. 

You’re more at risk for osteopenia (when your bones start to lose density) and osteoporosis (significant bone loss that increases fracture risk) if you’re:

Hormonal imbalances and autoimmune diseases also increase your risk. How can you tell if your bones are strong enough to resist fractures? The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends biannual DXA scans if you have or are:

Of course, if you’re at increased risk due to age, race, hormone status, or other reasons, you can start scans earlier. The more you know about your bone health, the faster you can take action to restore your bones or at least prevent further loss.

How to prepare for your bone scan

A DXA bone scan is a simple and pain-free procedure that allows us to see inside your bones. Prepare yourself ahead of time so your bone-density reading is accurate. 

Don’t take a calcium supplement for 24 hours before your scan or undergo a contrast dye X-ray or imaging study within a week before your scan. On the day of your scan, don’t wear clothing with metal zippers, snaps, or buckles. Leave all jewelry at home and wear loose clothing.

You don’t have to put on a hospital gown, as long as your clothes are metal- and zipper-free. You simply lie down on the table, and the technician places the X-ray scanner on different areas of your body. Depending on the reasons for the scan, they may X-ray your hip, lower spine, or forearm.

The entire process only takes about 10-20 minutes. You go home immediately afterward. 

Understanding your results

Your rheumatologist receives the results of your bone scan and then discusses them with you. They tell you your T-score (how your bones compare to healthy, young bones) and your Z-score (how your bones compare to other people’s bones of your age, sex, and ethnicity). 

If your Z-score is abnormally low, we order more tests to determine if you have an underlying medical condition that's affecting your bones. If your T-score is low, we may recommend supplements, lifestyle adjustments, and medications to help strengthen your bones and the muscles that support them.

Protect your health and your bones by booking a DXA scan today. Contact your nearest Rheumatology Center of New Jersey office. We have locations in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.

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