Bone Density Test | DEXA Scan

Bone density tests, or DEXA scans, can tell if you are at a higher risk for breaking bones or if you have osteoporosis. This painless procedure is the only test patients can use to tell if they have weakened bones or osteoporosis. Contact your provider if you believe you could benefit from a bone density test.

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test measures the calcium in the tested area of the bone. This determines the strength and durability of the bones. Bone density tests can tell if a patient is at increased risk for breaking bones. They can also determine if osteoporosis medication is working. Bone density can be tested in a number of places:

  • Spine
  • Hip
  • Wrists
  • Fingers
  • Leg
  • Heel

Some patients can have low bone density but not yet have osteoporosis. Doctors will work with patients and consider the need for osteoporosis treatment based on the results of the tests.

Bone density test process

Patients must not take any minerals or vitamins the day of the exam. Barium and radioisotopes exposure can also affect test results. The bone density in the spine and hip are the most frequently tested.

Patients are be tested by using a DXA machine. DXA machines give off low doses of X-rays and show bone density. The test should take approximately 15 minutes and can be taken at most hospital radiology departments and medical practices. Follow-up tests should be taken every two years to measure improvements or decreases in density.


Complete OB/GYN care

MaineHealth provides obstetrics and gynecology services at doctor’s offices, specialty clinics and community hospitals. The OB-GYNs at MaineHealth provide women’s reproductive care that is skilled and compassionate.

Women are at greater risk of getting osteoporosis than men. Bone density tests are recommended for:

  • Women 65 and older
  • Men 70 and older
  • Smokers
  • Women with early menopause
  • People at risk for osteoporosis
  • People whose X-rays show bone loss in their spine
  • People who could have a break in their spine
  • People who have lost ½ inch of height in one year
  • People who have lost 1 ½ inches of height in total
  • People with a family history of osteoporosis

Speak with your provider about bone density testing and how you can prevent broken bones.