Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a bone density test (medical name - Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry; DXA). It is a short, painless scan that measures the density (strength) of your bones, usually at the hip and spine. The result from this test is called a T-score.
Your GP will first assess your risk factors for osteoporosis, which include your age, medical history and lifestyle factors, before referring you for a test.
Bone Density Test
A bone density test will give you a T-score. The result will be in the range of:
- Osteopenia (low bone density); or
If the test shows normal
You have normal bone density. Exercise, adequate calcium intake and vitamin D are all important factors for maintaining bone health.
If the test shows osteopenia (low bone density)
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors that can affect bone health. Your doctor will also recommend a follow-up test in 1-2 years to monitor your bone density.
If the test shows osteoporosis
This means your bone density is low and at risk of fracture. Your doctor will probably recommend you start treatment to stop further bone loss and prevent fractures. Lifestyle changes will also be recommended. A follow-up test is commonly conducted in a year to monitor your bone density and the effectiveness of the treatment.
Medicare Rebates for a bone density test
There is a Medicare rebate for a bone density test (DXA scan) if you:
- Have been previously diagnosed with osteoporosis
- Have had one or more fractures due to osteoporosis
- Are 70 years or over in age
- Are taking corticosteroids, or have Cushing's syndrome
- Have not had a menstrual period for more than 6 months, under age 45 (excludes pregnancy)
- Are male and have low testosterone
- Have rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney or liver disease, overactive thyroid or parathyroid or coeliac disease.
You may see advertisements for other types of bone tests in chemists and shopping centres, called Heel Ultrasounds.
Heel Ultrasound is not the recommended standard test to measure your bone strength and predict your risk of fracture.