The first step in treating osteoporosis is understanding whether you have it. Screening can determine how much bone density you have and whether you have osteoporosis or are at risk for developing it.
One of the most common and accurate ways to identify osteoporosis is through a DEXA scan. DEXA stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. This is a non-invasive test that involves X-rays aimed at the spine and hip. The amount of X-ray beam that passes through the bones indicates how dense the bone is, or its bone mineral density. As density is lost, the bone becomes weaker and more brittle. This condition is called osteopenia or, if enough density has been lost, osteoporosis.
When you first visit Novant Health Osteoporosis Clinic, we will arrange a referral for a DEXA scan if you have not had one recently. We will also discuss lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol use, diet and exercise habits, and work to identify potential risk factors. Should you need any bloodwork, it can be completed in our on-site lab.
Just as you get mammograms and colonoscopies, DEXA scans are important health screenings that should be repeated regularly. Repeated DEXA scans can determine how much bone mass was lost or gained, and if exercise and medications are working to preserve or build bone mass.
We also use the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool, or FRAX, to determine patients' risk of bone fractures. The World Health Organization developed this tool to provide general clinical guidance for treatment decisions. We use this tool in conjunction with other test results and the results of physical exams when developing treatment plans.