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Bone density scan

A bone density scan is a safe, painless X-ray examination. It makes it possible to measure the density of your bones and determine whether you have osteoporosis: a disease characterized by a decrease in bone mineral density. Osteoporosis can be caused by smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, low body weight or a high intake of alcohol and caffeine.

What is a bone density scan?

a health specialist and her patient before doing a bone density scan

A bone density scan, also called bone densitometry, is a safe, painless X-ray examination that makes it possible to measure the density of your bones and determine whether you have osteoporosis: a disease characterized by a decrease in bone mineral density. The risk factors for osteoporosis are:

  • smoking
  • high intake of alcohol and caffeine
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • a history of fracture after minor traumas
  • low body weight or weight loss

Examination procedure

For the examination procedure, you will be asked:

  • to change into a hospital gown and remove your jewellery and other metal objects, which can interfere with image quality
  • to lay comfortably on an examination table
  • to remain still while an X-ray machine will move slowly above your body and take images (e.g. hips, spine, forearm) that will be analyzed by a technologist. The results will be determined by a radiologist and sent to your healthcare professional. The examination may be complemented with X-rays of the spinal column, if needed.

Please note that the total duration of your visit for this examination can be between 30 and 60 minutes, even though the examination procedure itself will only last approximately 20 minutes.

Preparing for the Examination

Before the examination, we will ask you :

  • to inform your healthcare professional and the technologist at our clinic if there is any chance that you may be pregnant
  • to bring with you on the day of the examination, the CD of any images as well as the report from any X-ray of your spinal column you may have had at another clinic in the previous 12 months

Here are the steps to follow to properly prepare for the examination

For the 14 days before your appointment, it is important to avoid any X-rays and nuclear medicine tests that may involve contrast agents.

For the 48 hours before the examination, we will ask you to stop taking calcium tablets or vitamins that contain calcium (you can, however, drink and eat foods that contain calcium). Also, you can’t take osteoporosis drugs (DIDROCAL, FOSAMAX, EVISTA, ACTONEL).

On the day of the examination, you can eat normal meals before the examination.

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A medical prescription is required to perform this examination.

The costs of this examination are covered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ).

If your healthcare professional has prescribed this examination or if you have any questions, contact us at 1 800 463-7674.

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