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Bone Densitometry

What is a bone density test?

This is a way of measuring the amount o f calcium in a certain amount of bone. This is important because the amount of calcium in your bone determines how strong it is. If the bone density is very low, then you have osteoporosis and a very high risk of fracturing your bones. A standard X-ray is not a good way to measure bone density, because you must lose about 30% of your bone mass before it can be detected this way. We need to find out about any problem long before it gets that severe. There are different techniques for measuring bone density. The most advanced, and the one used by New Mexico Clinical Research & Osteoporosis Center, is called “Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry” or DXA. This uses a very weak form of X-ray (about 1/30 the radiation of a standard chest X-ray) to rapidly scan your bones, and a computer to convert this information to numbers indicating your bone density. This is a high technology test, but is very easy to go through. It takes only a few minutes, and involves no shots, needles, enemas, or medicine. In fact, you don’t even have to take off your clothes, provided you are wearing nothing with metal in it.

Who needs bone densitometry?

The answer is – anyone who wants an accurate measurement of bone density. However, because of cost concerns, the test is most often done for those with high risk of developing osteoporosis, or to monitor the effectiveness of treatment for osteoporosis. Consult with your physician if you think you might benefit from knowing your bone density. The categories for which bone densitometry is most often done are:

  • Estrogen deficient women undecided about taking hormones.
  • Those with spinal abnormalities or X-ray evidence of bone loss.
  • Anyone taking long-term corticosteroid treatment (such as Prednisone).
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism with no symptoms.
  • Monitoring of therapy for osteoporosis.

Will insurance cover bone densitometry?

It depends. At this time, most insurance companies have a very specific list of diagnoses which will qualify you for coverage to have bone densitometry done. The list is different for each type of insurance, and often pre-authorization is required before the test is scheduled. Your physician’s office can give you more information on whether or not you will be covered. If you and your physician feel that the test should be done, even if not covered by insurance, then arrangements can be made for self-pay at a discounted rate.

How is bone densitometry scheduled? To schedule bone densitometry at New Mexico Clinical Research & Osteoporosis Center, call (505) 855-5525.

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