Osteoporosis is a disease that causes porous and brittle bones. Under a microscope, healthy bones are covered in small holes like a tiny honeycomb. In people with osteoporosis, the holes are much bigger, which makes the bones weaker and more prone to fracture.
Osteoporosis affects an estimated 54 million Americans, most of whom are women. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine, or wrist. For older patients with broken bones, recovery isn’t easy. In fact, approximately 20% of seniors who break a hip die within 1 year from problems related to the broken bone or the surgery to repair it.
Osteoporosis Screening Recommendations
There are general recommendations for when to begin screening, but it’s important to talk to your doctor about what’s best for you based on your unique risk factors.
- Women 65 years and older should be screened. If additional risk factors are present, screening may be recommended at an earlier age.
- Men 70 years and older should be screened. If additional risk factors are present, screening may be recommended at an earlier age.
Osteoporosis Screening: What to Expect
Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is the best way to screen for osteoporosis. DEXA uses a low dose x-ray to measure bone density. You will lie flat on the exam table. The arm of the x-ray machine will pass over you as it takes images. There is no pain or discomfort. The entire exam takes about 15 minutes. Results are provided in the form of two scores:
- T-score compares the patient’s bone density to the average peak bone density of the same gender.
- Z-score compares the patient’s bone density to the average bone density of other people of the same age, size, and gender.
Schedule Your Osteoporosis Screening Exam
Many people find out they have osteoporosis after they break a bone, which can lead to a long and painful recovery process. Osteoporosis screening with DEXA is the best way to diagnose the problem early before a fracture occurs. The Association of Alexandria Radiologists offers bone density screening at the following locations: AAR Alexandria Imaging Center, AAR Woodbridge Imaging Center, Inova Springfield HealthPlex, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Insight Imaging Fairfax, Inova Imaging Center Mark Center, and Inova Lorton HealthPlex.