Aging & Health A to Z
Diagnosis & Tests
X-rays are usually used to confirm if a bone is broken and to find the locations of any loose bony pieces. Other diseases of the bone can also show up on an x-ray, such as osteoporosis, Paget’s disease, or compression fractures in the spine.
Bone densitometry is another type of low-dose x-ray that tells your healthcare provider if you have osteoporosis or thinning of the bones. It is also known as a bone mineral density test (BMD). It is widely used and will likely be one of the first tests your healthcare provider will order for you. Your results from a BMD test (usually of the hip, spine, wrist or heel bone)can be a strong predictor of a future fracture.
All women 65 years of age and older should have a BMD test to check bone strength. It is not yet known whether men benefit from a routine BMD, as men have a lower risk of osteoporosis than women do. Men should discuss whether to get a BMD with their healthcare providers.
The FRAX®tool has been developed to predict the risk of a fracture. This tool can provide a personalized score to predict your 10-year probability of a major fracture. It combines your risk factors for fracture and your bone density. You can discuss this tool with your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests such as:
- kidney function tests
- thyroid and other hormone levels
- calcium levels
- vitamin D levels
- other blood tests to check for certain diseases, such as celiac disease or Paget’s disease or multiple myeloma, if any of these disorders is suspected
- if you need surgery to repair your fracture, additional blood tests and X-rays may also be ordered
If the x-ray did not show a fracture but your healthcare provider is still suspicious of one, you may be asked to undergo other tests and imaging scans such as:
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- computed tomography (CT) scan
Updated: January 2017
Posted: March 2012