Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Bone Density Test

Bone Density Test (DEXA)

Patient Information

Appointment Scheduling MSLHImaging@houstonmethodist.org

No appointment necessary for X-Rays. Walk-ins welcome.

Imaging & Diagnostic ServicesMonday - Friday,
7:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Breast Center
Monday - Friday,
7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Bone Density Test (DEXA)

Some women are at greater risk for osteoporosis than others. Osteoporosis can be defined as the decrease of bone mass and density as a result of the depletion of bone calcium and protein. A physician can help determine risk of developing osteoporosis by taking a patient’s personal and family medical history and by performing a bone density test or bone mass measurement.

What is a Bone Density Test?

A bone density test, also known as bone mass measurement or bone mineral density test (BMD), measures the strength and density of bones as menopause approaches. When the test is repeated sometime later, as requested by a physician, it can help determine how quickly a patient is losing bone mass and density. These tests are painless, noninvasive and safe. They compare bone density with standards for what is expected in someone of the same age, gender and size and to the optimal peak bone density of a healthy young adult of the same gender. Bone density testing can help to:

  • detect low bone density before a fracture occurs.
  • confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you have already fractured.
  • predict chances of fracturing in the future.
  • determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more.

Why is a Bone Density Test Performed?

You may want to consider having a bone density test if you have one or more of the following risk factors for osteoporosis:

  • You have already experienced a bone fracture that may be the result of thinning bones.
  • Your mother, grandmother or another close relative had osteoporosis or bone fractures.
  • Over a long period of time, you have taken medication that accelerates bone loss, such as corticosteroids for treating rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions, or some anti-seizure medications.
  • You have low body weight, a slight build or a light complexion.
  • You have a history of cigarette smoking or heavy drinking.

On the Day of Your Bone Density Test

Where do I go? Campus Map

At the time your appointment is scheduled, you will be instructed to go to the Breast Center in the Sweetwater Pavilion. As indicated on the map, dedicated parking is located just outside the Breast Center.

When Should I Arrive?

Arrival times may vary. If you are not sure of your time of arrival, please call 281-274-7170 to clarify for your specific test.

How do I Prepare for Bone Density Testing?

Dress comfortably for the procedure. Avoid wearing clothes with metal buttons or buckles if possible for the test. Jewelry may need to be removed before the test.

Also, discontinue vitamin supplement and/or calcium supplements 48 hours prior to the exam to ensure accuracy of testing.

What Should I Expect During the Procedure?

You will lie on your back on a padded table. Usually you can wear your own clothes unless there are metal objects on the clothing that will interfere with the testing. You may need to lie with your legs straight or with lower legs resting on a cushioned platform. Testing at least two different bones, preferably the hip and spine, each time is the most reliable way of measuring bone mineral density. It is best to test the same bones and to use the same measurement technique and equipment each time. Your forearm may also be tested for osteoporosis. The technologist will need to be notified of any previous bone fractures in your body.

Will it Hurt?

Usually there is no discomfort during a bone density test. If you have back pain, you may be uncomfortable lying on your back on the flat table. When testing the lower back, you will be given a cushioned platform to rest your legs on. When testing the hips, you will be asked to have your legs extended without any cushion or pillows under your legs to ensure accurate testing of your hip bones. You will be given a pillow for your head to rest on for the procedure.

How Long will the Exam Take?

The exam will usually last approximately 30 minutes.

After Your Test:

A board certified radiologist will interpret your exam. Legally, the technologist cannot interpret or discuss what they are viewing while performing the exam. A report with the results will be sent to your physician within two to three business days. Please check with your physician’s office to discuss the results.