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Bone Mineral Density Tests (cont.)

What Different Bone Mineral Density Tests Are Available?

Several tests are available to assess bone density. These tests are not painful, and they are completely noninvasive, which means no surgery. Central machines measure density in the hip, spine, and total body. Peripheral machines measure density in the finger, wrist, kneecap, shinbone, and heel. The most common types of tests are listed below:

  • Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) scanning is a special low-radiation X-ray that can detect bone loss -- even very small amounts of bone loss. DXA scans are the most commonly used method of bone mineral density measurement. They are used to measure spine and hip bone densities. Peripheral dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (pDXA) measures the bone density in the forearm, finger, and heel. Single-energy X-ray absorptiometry (SXA) measures the bone density in the wrist or heel.
  • Quantitative computed tomography (QCT) scanning measures the bones of the lower spine because these bones change as a person ages. The peripheral QCT scan measures the forearm bone density.
  • Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) uses sound waves to measure bone density at the heel, shin, and finger.
  • Radiographic absorptiometry (RA) scanning uses an X-ray film of the hand and a small metal wedge to calculate bone density.
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