Bone Density (DXA) Scanning
A condition that affects the inside of bones. It causes bones to become fragile, so they break easily. It is called the silent disease because there are no signs or symptoms prior to a person breaking (fracturing) bones. The effects of undiagnosed/untreated osteoporosis can be devastating, therefore the prevention and early detection of this disease is so important.
Bone is a living tissue that the body continually removes and replaces. As we get older, this process slows down, and usually more bone is lost than formed. However, some people lose bone much faster than others, when new bone formation does not keep up with the loss of old bone, it will result in osteoporosis.
It is estimated that up to 300,000 people in Ireland have osteoporosis. Although more common in females who have gone through the menopause, it can also affect men and even children.
What is a DXA Scan?
A DXA scan is a special type of medical test that helps doctors measure the density of your bones. It's a painless and non-invasive procedure that uses a low amount of X-rays to create images of your bones. This helps your doctor assess the health of your bones and determine if you have conditions like osteoporosis or low bone density.
Who should have a DXA?
A DXA (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan is a valuable tool for assessing bone health and diagnosing conditions like osteoporosis. The International Society for Clinical Densitometry (ISCD) provides guidelines to help determine who might benefit from a DXA scan. If you fall into any of the following categories, it's recommended that you discuss the possibility of a DXA scan with your healthcare provider:
Postmenopausal Women and Older Men:
Women who have gone through menopause and men aged 70 and older are at a higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. ISCD recommends DXA scans for individuals in this age group to assess bone density and fracture risk.
Individuals with Specific Medical Conditions:
Certain medical conditions and treatments can increase the risk of bone loss. If you have conditions such as hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or are taking medications like glucocorticoids, you may benefit from a DXA scan to monitor bone health.
If you've experienced a fragility fracture (a fracture caused by minimal trauma) or have a family history of fractures, a DXA scan can help evaluate your bone density and assess the risk of future fractures.
Monitoring Osteoporosis Treatment:
For individuals undergoing treatment for osteoporosis or low bone density, DXA scans are used to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and make necessary adjustments to the management plan.
Assessing Treatment Need:
DXA scans can help healthcare providers determine whether pharmacological treatment is warranted based on ISCD guidelines, which consider factors such as bone density measurements, fracture risk assessment tools, and clinical history.
Preparing for Surgical Procedures:
Individuals who are planning to undergo certain surgical procedures that might be affected by bone health, such as spinal fusion or weight loss surgery, may require a DXA scan to assess bone density and provide essential information for the surgical team.
Individuals with Height Loss:
Significant height loss over time can be indicative of vertebral fractures. A DXA scan can help determine if these fractures have occurred and assess overall bone health.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Evaluation:
If you're considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or already on HRT, a DXA scan can assist in assessing the impact of the therapy on bone health.
Please note that the decision to have a DXA scan should always be made in consultation with a qualified healthcare provider. If you believe you may fall into any of these categories or have concerns about your bone health, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our medical professionals to discuss whether a DXA scan is appropriate for you.
Benefits of Bone Densitometry
Bone Health Assessment
A DXA scan is a reliable way to measure your bone density, helping your doctor assess the strength and health of your bones. This is particularly important for identifying conditions like osteoporosis, which can increase the risk of fractures.
Fracture Risk Evaluation
The scan results provide valuable information about your risk of bone fractures. This can guide your healthcare provider in developing strategies to prevent fractures and improve your overall bone health.
For individuals undergoing treatment for bone conditions, regular DXA scans can help track the effectiveness of interventions over time. This allows doctors to adjust treatment plans as needed to achieve better outcomes.
By detecting changes in bone density early, a DXA scan can help identify potential issues before they lead to more serious problems, allowing for timely interventions and treatment.
Personalised Treatment Plan
If your DXA scan reveals low bone density or signs of osteoporosis, your doctor can create a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medications to strengthen your bones and reduce fracture risk.
Guidance for Healthy Living
DXA scans can provide insights into your bone health and overall well-being. This information can motivate you to adopt healthier lifestyle habits, including proper nutrition, exercise, and vitamin supplementation, which are crucial for maintaining strong bones.