What To Expect When Having A Bone Density Scan

Posted on: 11 August 2017


If a doctor suspects you have osteoporosis, they may order a bone density scan. This scan is the best way to determine the density of your bones, determine if you are suffering from osteoporosis, how bad the condition is and what treatments may be beneficial for you. However, this is not a scan that many people are familiar with. As such, you may be wondering what you can expect when having a bone density scan done. Here is some information that may help you prepare for your test and know what to expect:

Before the Scan

You will likely have to arrive at your doctor's office or hospital about 15 to 30 minutes before your procedure is set to take place. During this time, a staff member will ask you questions. These questions are typically general questions about your health, what conditions you may be diagnosed with and what medications you are currently taking. It is important to let the staff know exactly what medications you are taking and the dosage, as certain medications can affect the scan. It is also important to let the staff know if you have had CT scans with contrast done in the past week, as these can affect the scans as well. Once your history is taken, you will be changed into a hospital gown and the procedure will begin. 

The Actual Scan

The actual scan itself generally takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how many parts of the body are being scanned. You will lay on a flat padded table and a mechanical arm will go around your body taking images that are similar to x-rays. You may be asked to change position to access different parts of your body. As a general rule of thumb, doctors will ask for scans of your pelvic region, lower back, and forearms. This is because bone density varies in the body, and you may only be affected in certain parts of the body by osteoporosis. Scanning different body parts allow the doctor to see what parts may or may not be affected and what your general bone density is. 

After the Scan

Typically, you will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor within a few weeks of the scan. Most doctors will not interpret the results and go over them with you immediately. During this follow up appointment, the doctor will diagnose you, if you have the condition, and come up with a treatment plan. Further scans may be ordered in the future to see how well you are responding to treatment. 

All in all, a bone density scan is a fairly easy and straight forward medical diagnosing tool. You will not feel any pain, nor do you have to do anything special before or after the scan. If you have any further questions about the procedure or what it entails, be sure to ask your physician. 

Click here for more info on what to expect from your bone density scan.