A bone density test can be done to screen for osteoporosis, which causes bones to become fragile and break easily, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).
The test is recommended for women 65 or older. If you are younger than 65 and have risk factors of the disease, you should talk with your doctor about whether the test would be right for you, according to the HHS.
Some things your doctor might consider include:
Family history of broken bones
Height and weight
Medicines you use
Other disorders or diseases
Having this screening can help you be aware of your risk of osteoporosis and create a plan for how to prevent fractures, according to the HHS.
Talk with your doctor for more information about bone density testing and whether it is right for you.
Clinical practice guidelines universally recommend bone mineral density (BMD) screening to identify osteoporosis in women aged 65 years and older. Risk assessment is recommended to guide BMD screening in postmenopausal women under age 65. Insufficient data are available to inform standard ages to start and stop BMD screening in postmenopausal women. Based on longitudinal studies of incident osteoporosis and fracture in postmenopausal women, an initial BMD test should be ordered for all women aged 65, and the frequency of re-screening should be based on age and BMD T score (more frequent testing for older age and lower T score). Although clinical practice guidelines recommend BMD screening according to risk factors for fracture in postmenopausal women under age 65, no standard approach to risk assessment exists. Minimal evidence is available to guide osteoporosis screening in men, but some experts recommend initiation of BMD screening in men at age 70.
Two types of machines can measure bone density. Central machines test it in the hip, spine, and total body. Doctors can use them to do different types of bone density tests:
DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) measures the spine, hip, or total body. Doctors consider this test the most useful and reliable for checking bone density.
QCT (quantitative computed tomography) usually measures the spine, but it can test other sites, too. You usually get this test to see how well osteoporosis treatments are working.