Bone Density Testing

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I know that a bone density scan can help detect osteoporosis. Who should have this test?

A. There are generally four situations where a bone density scan is desirable:

1. Postmenopausal women under age 65 years who have other risk factors for osteoporosis, including use of steroids, thyroid disease, smoking history, family history of osteoporosis, cessation of menses for three months or more at some point, excessive thinness, lifelong low calcium intake, or excessive use of alcohol.

2. Premenopausal women with any of these risk factors.

3. Postmenopausal women who have had a fracture.

4. All women over 65 years.

If you fall into any of these categories, you should definitely consider having this safe and painless test since there are now medications for prevention of osteoporosis. You may also require hormone replacement therapy if your estrogen levels are very low. If you are worried about osteoporosis, I would advocate this test for no other reason than your own peace of mind, which is so important to maintaining healthfulness. Talk to your doctor.