Diagnosis & Tests

Bone Density Screening

Some people need to be screened for bone density problems and osteoporosis.

Screening involves a DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan, which is safe and painless. This scan uses low level x-rays to find out how much calcium a person’s bones have. This is called your bone mineral density or bone mass density (BMD). BMD is usually measured at the hip and spine.

The following groups need a DEXA scan:

  • Women over the age of 65 years or who had early menopause.
  • Postmenopausal women with at least one other risk.
  • Postmenopausal women who have recently stopped taking hormone supplements.
  • Men over the age of 70 years.
  • Men between 50 and 70 years of age with at least one other risk factor.
  • Men or women over age 50 who have broken a bone in the past, especially if the trauma that brought on the fracture was minor.
  • Men or women who take or are thinking of starting medications that raise the risk of osteoporosis.

How often a person gets an osteoporosis screening depends on their age, baseline bone density, and other risk factors.


When you see your healthcare professional about osteoporosis, they will do the following to diagnose the disease. 

  • Ask questions about the risk factors for osteoporosis and any history of broken bones.
  • Do a physical examination.
  • Order a test called a DEXA scan.
  • Order, in some cases, a bone density test of the wrist or heel. This test is called a SXA (single energy x-ray absorptiometry).
  • Order blood and urine tests to look for a medical condition that could be causing bone loss. 
  • Determine a FRAX score. This score comes from a fracture risk assessment tool. The tool predicts the 10-year risk of a hip or other major fracture due to osteoporosis using bone mineral density along with other risk factors.


Last Updated December 2022

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