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Diagnosing Osteoporosis: Bone Density Testing (DXA)

Patient waiting for her bone density scan.

Osteoporosis is a silent disease. It has no obvious symptoms in its early stages, and is often diagnosed only after a fracture occurs. However, in some cases, there are warning signs, such as:

  • Loss of height
  • Spine curvature (due to bone loss)
  • Back pain
  • History of fracture as an adult

Scheduling a Bone Density Test

Bone mineral density testing is a painless and safe way to diagnose osteoporosis. Bone density is measured through dual-energy X-ray absorption (DXA) scans of the hip or spine. The test is used to determine the “hardness” of a patient’s bones, particularly the lower back and hips, which are evaluated in a standard bone density test. 

While this test is more commonly prescribed for women, men and children are frequently evaluated based on their physician’s recommendation. The DXA scan is available at our medical offices in Hillcrest and at Moores Cancer Center in La Jolla.

Your T-Score

The result of your DXA scan is presented as a T-score, which represents the difference of your bone density from the average bone density of healthy young adults.

Pre-osteoporosis (Low bone mineral density)
Diagnosed if your T-score is between -1.0 and -2.5.

Osteoporosis
Diagnosed if your T-score is -2.5 or less. This means that your bone density is equal to or less than 2.5 standard deviations below the mean of a healthy young adult.

Sample image of DXA bone density results of an osteoporotic femur

Diagnosis image  
 

Normal
Although any negative T-score means that a person’s bone density is below average, a T-score greater than -1.0 is considered normal.

What Your Bone Scan Doesn’t Tell You

Your bone mineral density T-score is a two-dimensional, cross-sectional view of just one bone in your skeleton and does not indicate other factors that may influence your risk for an osteoporotic fracture.

For example, while the quality of the bone matrix and its microarchitecture contribute to bone strength, problems with vision and sense of balance can also increase your chances of a high-trauma fall that can result in fracture.

After Diagnosis

After being diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone mineral density, your physician may recommend follow-up bone mineral density scans to evaluate whether treatment options are working.

Appointments for Bone Density Tests

  • 619-543-3405

  • Ask your primary care physician for a referral. 

Bone Density Testing Locations

La Jolla

Hillcrest

Our Team

bullet Meet our bone health experts.

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