After Density Testing

You have just had a bone density test with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This explains some of the details about when and how you will get the results, how the test is interpreted, and what happens after that.

Getting the results:

Your bone density test will be carefully analyzed by the DXA technologist using the information that is in the computer. The physician will examine the images or pictures of your bones, look at many numbers generated by the computer, compare the results with previous test when possible, and then dictate a report. This is usually the same day that the test is done. After the typed copy of the report is reviewed and signed, it will be mailed to the healthcare provider who ordered the test, with a copy sent to anyone you requested. The report is usually in the mail within two working days after having the test. It is the responsibility of the person who ordered the test to contact you with the results. If you have an appointment or consultation with a healthcare provider at New Mexico Clinical Research & Osteoporosis Center the same day as your bone density test, then you will be given the results of the bone density test at that time.

Interpreting the results:

If you are a woman past menopause or a man over age 50, the DXA test will provide a diagnosis according to standards established by the World Health Organization and the International Society for Clinical Densitometry. The diagnosis depends on a number called a“T-score,” which is a mathematical way of comparing your bone density to that of a young-adult. The lower the T-score (the more negative it is), then the lower your bone density and the greater the risk of breaking (fracturing) your bones. If lowest “T-score” of certain bones is -1.0 or higher, you are normal. If it is -1.1 to -2.4, you have low bone mass (osteopenia). If the T-score is -2.5 or lower, then you are classified as having osteoporosis. For women who are not yet menopausal, men age 50 and younger, and children, the bone density is reported as a“Z-score,” which compares your bone density to an average person the same age. If the Z-score is less (more negative) then -2.0, it is called “below the expected range for age.” Besides diagnostic classification, the bone density test is used to determine fracture risk and sometimes to look at changes since a previous test.

Using the results:

Since a low bone density measurement does not give any information on why it is low, additional tests may be done to learn about the causes of your low bone density. Also, your risk of breaking bones depends on more than just your bone density. For example, as you get older your fracture risk is higher, even if bone density stays the same, and if you have already broken a bone as an adult, your risk of breaking bones again may be very high, regardless of your bone density. Your healthcare provider will need to consider all of this before recommending treatment.