Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is today's established standard for measuring bone mineral density (BMD).
DXA is most often used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition that often affects women after menopause but may also be found in men and rarely in children. Osteoporosis involves a gradual loss of calcium, as well as structural changes, causing the bones to become thinner, more fragile and more likely to break. DXA is also effective in tracking the effects of treatment for osteoporosis and other conditions that cause bone loss.
DXA can also assess an individual's risk for developing fractures. The risk of fracture is affected by age, body weight, history of prior fracture, family history of osteoporotic fractures, and life style issues such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These factors are taken into consideration when deciding if a patient needs therapy. Bone density testing is strongly recommended if you are a post-menopausal woman and not taking estrogen, have a personal or maternal history of hip fracture or smoking, are a man with clinical conditions associated with bone loss or use medications that are known to cause bone loss, including corticosteroids such as Prednisone, various anti-seizure medications such as Dilantin and certain barbiturates, or high-dose thyroid replacement drugs.