The Central Bone Mineral Densitometry (BMD) examination is the friendliest of all of the various x-ray examinations and may as well be considered the safest. This article highlights what you should expect and also the steps you should take in preparation for the examination.
Bone Mineral Density Exam
The Central BMD examination accurately measures the density of your bones. It is painless, very simple and noninvasive. Noninvasive means that you will not be receiving any dye or other contrast media neither by intravenous (IV) injections nor orally or rectally in order to perform the examination.
What Parts of Your Body Will be Examined?
During the Central BMD, the medical professional will usually measure two areas of the body:
- Above the pelvis, specifically the lower back (known as the lumbar spine), and,
- Below the pelvis, specifically the thigh bone (known as the proximal part of the femur).
If you have had surgery in either of these two areas in the past, the medical professional may perform the measurement on one your forearms. In cases where the patient has had surgery to the back and both of the hips, the medical professional may consider acquiring a BMD of the whole body where applicable. This mode is also of choice for the younger population; e.g.: children and teens.
Preparing for the Central BMD Examination
The following are some important guidelines in preparation for the examination:
- If you are pregnant or if there is a possibility of you becoming pregnant, you should delay the test until you are no longer pregnant. If you decide to have the examination anyway, you should notify the medical professional performing the test.
- If you are scheduled to take an imaging examination that requires you to receive a dye or other contrast media either by intravenous (IV) injection or orally or rectally, the Central BMD examination should be performed prior to or at least seven days after such an imaging examination; e.g.: nuclear scan, CT scan, MRI, Barium studies etc.
The Day of the Central BMD Examination
On the day of your scheduled Central BMD examination, you should follow these guidelines:
- Bring the Central BMD examination request your Physician has provided along with your health insurance card to the examination facility.
- Show up 15 to 20 minutes prior to your appointment. This will give you ample time to register. Exams are usually booked back-to-back. Hence, punctuality is appreciated.
- Eat a normal diet on the day of the test.
- Take your medications as you normally would.
- DO NOT take calcium supplements for 2 to 4 hours before the test.
- Bring an up-to-date list of the medications you are taking.
- Leave any valuables or jewelry you normally wear at home.
- Try not to wear body-piercing ornamentation to the examination.
- Wear loose fitting clothes and avoid wearing accessories such as belts, clasps, hooks, zippers, thick buttons or glitter ornamentation.
- Note that bra hooks and metal buttons on back pockets may be unnoticeable to the eye but will interfere with the measurement procedure.
During the Examination
Every effort will be made to keep you in your own clothes during the examination. However, you may still be asked to wear a gown if required. The Central BMD procedure is relatively short nonetheless you should allow fifteen to twenty minutes from the time you walk into the room until you leave.
During the examination, you will need to lie on your back on a padded table. You will be kept in a comfortable position until the BMD measurement is complete. You should remain as still as possible during the measurement. You will not be required to hold your breath.
During your visit, the staff will not only measure your bone densitometry, they will carefully measure your height without your shoes on. Height loss can be an important indicator of fractures of the spine. As a result, height measurements should be taken each time you have a Central BMD.
After the Examination
Once completed, you can immediately go back to your regular activity level. The examination is presented to a Radiologist who will prepare a report; which will be sent to your Physician. You should allow a space of two weeks before visiting your Physician in order to discuss the results.
By Robert M. Hakim, M.R.T. (R.), RTR, CDT
Diagnostic Imaging Department – Georgetown Hospital
Halton Healthcare Services Corporation, Halton Hills, Ontario
Robert M. Hakim is a Clinical Densitometry Technologist. Robert is a Member of the International Society of Clinical Densitometry.
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