Avera Medical Minute: DEXA scan to determine osteoporosis

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Breaking a bone is never fun, but discovering why you broke that bone could help you find another health issue that can be treated.

DEXA scan results

When Bonnie O'Hara had a DEXA scan, or a bone density scan a few years ago, she didn't have osteoporosis. Things changed two years later when she fell and broke her arm. Her doctor recommended another DEXA scan. This time it determined she had osteoporosis.

Avera family medicine physician Dr. Leah Prestbo says Bonnie has osteoporosis. Her bones are weak and brittle and more likely to break. Determining osteoporosis comes from the results of a DEXA scan.

"What we do is we take pictures of hips, spine, and sometimes the distal forearm in a patient who's getting a bone density study or DEXA scan. The machine helps us to calculate, based on the amount the radiation that penetrates those bones, what the bone density is," said Dr. Leah Prestbo.

The DEXA scan radiation level is very low and you don't need any shots or have to drink any dyes.

"This is Bonnie's most recent scan and it will generate a number of what that relative risk is," said Dr. Leah Prestbo.

"You're hoping to not have osteoporosis, but if you can do a test that will tell you, why not? And if you can do something to help yourself, it's a good idea," said O'Hara.

Bonnie now takes a prescription, along with calcium and vitamin D to maintain her bone strength. But it doesn't stop her from going on with life.

"Take a little more caution. Use the handrail, don't skip up and down the steps," said O'Hara. "Rather than going for a walk I go to the pool and do my walking there.

Armed with her DEXA scan results, Bonnie and Dr. Prestbo can now plan for a healthy future ahead.

"With osteoporosis, it's unlikely that we'll take the diagnosis away, but there are medicines we can use to reduce that risk of breaking bones or fracturing them, and also some medicines that help to build bone," said Dr. Prestbo.

To maintain strong bones, Dr. Prestbo suggests avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Adding calcium, vitamin D to your diet and incorporating weight-bearing exercises can help maintain a healthy bone density.