Published on March 18, 2019

Bone Mineral Density Scan

What is a bone density scan?  

Bone Densitometry is a non-invasive bone scan that measures bone mineral density and is capable of diagnosing osteoporosis.  It is referred to as the “gold standard” screening exam to evaluate the loss of bone mass.   The device moves above the torso and pelvis, typically scanning the spine and hips.  For patients having a history of hip or spinal fracture with metal hardware implanted, the forearm is used instead.  A bone density DEXA exam is a quick and painless screening that can detect bone loss associated with osteoporosis early, before it causes fractures.

Who needs a bone density scan?

The following are all risk factors for osteoporosis:

  • Small, thin frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Smoker
  • Female
  • Avoidance of dairy foods
  • Low vitamin D intake
  • Caucasian ancestry
  • Never taken estrogen
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Asian ancestry
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Early menopause
  • Excessive alcohol intake

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends:

  • All women age 65 and older
  • Women under 65 who are postmenopausal and
    • a current smokers
    • family history of osteoporosis
    • low body weight
    • Patients with certain medical conditions and/or medication use should consult with their physician

Men at risk for decreased bone density should be screened too.  Low testosterone levels place men at a greater risk for development of osteoporosis

How do I get a bone density scan?

A licensed Provider makes a referral for a bone density DEXA exam.   Orders can be faxed to the scheduling department or placed within EPIC.

Where do I go? 

DEXA equipment is located at Chatham Hospital in Siler City and Chatham Imaging of Pittsboro.  The scan takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.  Bone Density Technologist are available at both locations to schedule.

When do I get tested?

Patients with multiple risk factors for osteoporosis or meet the defined criteria should inquire with their licensed Provider.  Most insurance companies will cover the full cost for this screening for at-risk patients.  The recommended screening interval is every two years, however patients diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis with an increased risk of fracture may be screened more frequently. 

What about my results?

Your physician will communicate the results and provide treatment options based on the findings.   Exercise plans and medication options are available for patients to reduce the risk or effects of osteoporosis. 


Source:  National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2019.


Media Contact

If you are a member of the media call us at 984-974-1140 with your request. On weekends, holidays and after 5pm on week nights, please leave a voicemail at 984-974-1140. Leaving voicemail at that number will send a page to our on-call person.