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Osteoporosis

Dangers of Bone Density Test

01/24/2001

Question:

Are there any risks involved when taking a bone density test? Is this an x-ray? If so what amount of radiation is used to do this test? How often should it be done?

Answer:

Risks involved with a bone density using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) are very low. The absorbed radiation dose is on the order of 1-3 mRem (supposedly about the exposure one would have on a trans-Atlantic flight). A bone density using quantitative computed tomography (QCT) involves a dose of 100-1000 mRem. A chest X-ray would be 20-50 mRem and a full dental x-ray would be 300 mRem. After the initial bone density a person on treatment may want to get a follow-up study in 18 months. If it is stable or improved, it may not be necessary to get another one for a number of years. For a person not on treatment, the follow-up interval would depend on many different factors such as the person`s age and overall health, the original bone density, and risk factors.

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Response by:

Margery   Gass, MD Margery Gass, MD
Formely, Professor, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati