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What is a bone density exam?

A bone density exam is an enhanced form of technology that is used to measure the amount of minerals that are in a segment of bone. Bone density measurements are used to identify those who might benefit from measures to improve bone strength and to screen women for osteoporosis risk. The most commonly tested bones are located in the hip, spine, and forearm.

Why is this exam done?

The bone density exam is mostly used to test for osteoporosis, a disease in which bones are more likely to break because of fragility. The exam also determines the patient’s risk of breaking a bone and identifies a decrease in bone density before the bone breaks.


  • You should wear loose, comfortable clothing the day of the exam. You may be given a hospital gown to wear during the exam.

  • You may be asked to remove metal items (such as keys, belts, wallets, jewelry, eye glasses) before the exam.

  • Inform your physician if you recently had a barium examination or have been injected with a contrast material for a computed tomography (CT) scan or radioisotope scan.

  • Women should inform the doctor if there is any possibility they are pregnant.

During the Exam

During a central examination (for the hip and spine), the patient will lie on a table, and images will be taken of the area being tested. During a peripheral examination, the patient’s forearm, hand, finger, or foot will be placed in a small machine that will easily capture the reading in a few minutes.


A radiologist will interpret your results and send them to your primary care, or referring physician.

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