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What to Expect when Undergoing a Bone Densitometry Scan

A bone densitometry scan measures the fracture risk of bone. The scan is performed on menopausal women and certain chemotherapy patients.

The procedure is outlined below:

Making an appointment

Doctors do recommend that certain people with increased fracture risk undergo the scan. The scan is normally performed in a radiology department , and a technologist will perform the scan. An appointment has to be made prior to the scan.


Patients can eat normal foods before the scan. Calcium supplements should be avoided. Patients who had barium or nuclear medicine scans recently need to check with the technologist how long they should wait before undergoing the scan.


The patient will be taken in by the technologist, and made to change into a gown. All metal items will be removed from the scan area as these can alter the results. The patent’s height and weight will be recorded as this information is necessary. The patient will also be asked if he/she had a total hip replacement. if so then the forearm will be scanned.


The patient will be taken to a room, and the technologist will record information about the patient. The patient will be made to lie on a table over a big machine. Normally a scan of the lumbar spine and hip is done. The technologist will ask the patient if he/she is left or right hand dominant. The side less dominant will be scanned, ie if the patient is right handed then the left hip is scanned. The technologist will start with either the hip or spine. The legs will be supported by a soft pad for the spine and the technologist will make sure that the spine is straight. The scan lasts for about two -four minutes depending on the speed of the scanner. The patients feet will be internally rotated and pulled slightly apart so that the femur is parallel to the table for the hip scan. This scan also lasts for about two-four minutes.


The technologist will have to do some calculations after the scan. This takes about 10-15 minuted and the patient can use this time to change.


The patient will then receive the results which will be taken back to the doctor. There will be a graph, and a table which highlights the T and Z scores. Z scores compares the patients bone mass to that of a person of the same age group and gender. T scores compares the bone mass of a young person who has peak bone mass to the patient’s.


The patient will then go back to the doctor who will advise the patient on the correct diet and exercise to combat osteoporosis.