Hammond-Henry Hospital

Bone Densitometry for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a growing healthcare crisis affecting millions of women and men worldwide. The healthcare costs associated with osteoporosis are staggering, and the effect on your quality of life can be devastating.  Fortunately, osteoporosis is detectable and treatable. Testing is safe and noninvasive. 

What is Osteoporosis?

In osteoporosis, the inside of the bones becomes porous from a loss of calcium. This is called losing bone mass.  Over time, this weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break.

Osteoporosis is much more common in women than in men. Women tend to live longer and take in less calcium, and need the female hormone estrogen to keep their bones strong.  If men live long enough, they are also at risk of getting osteoporosis later in life.

Once total bone mass has peaked, around age 35, all adults start to lose it. In women, the rate of bone loss speeds up after menopause, when estrogen levels fall.  Since ovaries make estrogen, faster bone loss may also occur if both ovaries are removed by surgery.

Many people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they have a fracture or have a bone density scan, also known as a bone mineral (BMD) test.  A bone density scan is simple, non-invasive test that measures a person’s bone density or volume of calcium and minerals within bone tissue. Bone density scans can help to:

  • Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs.
  • Predict your chance fracturing in the future.
  • Determine your rate of bone loss of monitor the effects of treatment.

Who should have one

Based on your risk for developing osteoporosis, your doctor can help you determine if you should have a bone density scan.  Bone density scans, however, are recommended if you are age 65 or older regardless of risk.

If you’re under 65 years of age, you should have a bone density scan if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Calcium-deficient diet
  • History of amenorrhea, the abnormal absence of menstruation
  • History of malabsorption
  • Moderate to high alcohol intake
  • Poor nutrition
  • Postmenopausal
  • Prolonged treatment with steroids, certain anti-cancer drugs, thyroid hormone and some anti-seizure medications
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Significant caffeine consumption
  • Small-boned frame
  • Smoke 


A bone density scan is simple, non-invasive and painless exam, designed to measure bone mass in areas such as your spine, hip, wrist, finger, kneecap, shin bone, and heel.  The test uses a low dose X-ray to detect signs of bone thinning and mineral loss.

The standard scan measures the density of the spine and hip. The forearm is measured in people with hyperthyroidism or if either hip cannot be scanned. Some doctors will order just a hip scan as a screening study for patients under the age of 60. Currently, whole body scans are used for research purposes.

There are several machines that measure bone density.  Central machines measure density in the finger, wrist, kneecap, shin bone and heel. 

A bone density scan takes about 15 minutes, including on-site registration. During the procedure, you will lie on a table scanner for five to eight minutes.  A technologist will sit next to you throughout the procedure. 


A bone density scan requires little preparation.  You may eat normally and take medications as prescribed by your doctor the morning of your test.  However, do not take any vitamin pills or mineral supplements the morning of the your exam.  In addition, you must not have had any exams involving barium or radioisotopes within the last month.  These scans interfere with the bone density results.  


If you have any questions or concerns, please ask your doctor or call the Imaging Department at  944-9135, and speak with a technologist.
If not pre-registered, please arrive at Admitting 15 minutes prior to your scheduled exam. You will then go to the Imaging Department to check in. 


Your bone density test results are reported in two numbers:  T-scores and Z-scores.

Your T-score is your bone density compared with what is normally expected with what is normally expected in a healthy young adult of your sex.  Your T-score is the number of units—standard deviations (SD)—that your bone density is above or below the standard.

T-score - what your score means

  • Above 1 - Your bone density is considered normal.
  • Between 1 and –2.5 - Your score is a sign of osteopenia, a condition in which bone density is below normal and may lead to osteoporosis .
  • Below –2.5  - Your bone density indicates you have osteoporosis.

Your Z-score is the number of standard deviations above or below what’s normally expected for someone of your age, sex, weight, and ethnic or racial origin.  This is helpful because it may suggest you have a secondary form of osteoporosis through which something other than aging is causing abnormal bone loss.  A Z-score less than –1.5 might indicate these other factors are to blame. Your doctor can identify a cause, that condition can often be treated and the bone loss slowed or stopped.

The results of your scan will be available in 3-5 days.  This information will enable your doctor to determine if you’re at risk for fractures. The lower your bone density, the higher your risk for fracture. Test results help you and your doctor plan the best course of action for your bone health.

Hammond-Henry Hospital Imaging Services
600 North College Avenue
Geneseo, IL 61254
Phone: (309) 944-9169 or contact us.