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Bone Mineral Densitometry

Bone mineral densitometry (BMD) uses special x-rays to measure calcium and other minerals in a segment of bone. Higher bone mineral content indicates denser bones, which are generally stronger and less likely to break. Doctors use a BMD test to determine if you have, or could develop, osteoporosis.

Tests are usually done on the bones most likely to break because of osteoporosis, such as:

  • Lumbar vertebrae (lower spine);
  • Femur (narrow neck of the bone adjoining the hip); and
  • Wrist and forearm.

To have a BMD test, you need a referral from your family physician.


1. How to prepare

  • Bring your health card with you.
  • If for some reason you cannot make your appointment, inform the BMD department of your hospital as soon as possible.
  • Inform your physician if you are pregnant, or think you may be.
  • Advise your physician if you have recently had a barium examination, or been injected with a contrast material for a CT scan or radioisotope scan.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing. Sweat suits and/or elastic-waisted clothes are preferred. If possible, do not wear tops with buttons or pants with zippers, buttons, or grommets. You will be required to remove your bra if it contains any metal, such as metal hooks or underwires. 
  • Arrive at the hospital admitting department 30 minutes before your exam.

2. What to expect

A BMD exam usually takes around 15 minutes. BMD tests are painless, and require almost no advance preparation.
  • When you arrive, you may be asked to change into a gown.
  • You will lie down on a table that has an x-ray generator below it and a detector above it.
  • You must hold very still and may be asked to hold your breath while the image is being taken.
  • The technologist may ask you to move into several positions. Several images will be taken that measure your bone density. Measurements are typically taken from the lower spine or hips.
  • Once the exam is over, you can leave and resume your normal activities.

3. Service locations

Saskatchewan's health care system currently operates three BMD machines, with additional service provided in Lloydminster by a private clinic in Alberta.
Department Phone
Regina General Hospital – Nuclear Medicine
Saskatoon City Hospital – Medical Imaging
Lloydminster - RCA Diagnostics



4. Risks

Bone densitometry involves a small dose of radiation.

As in any medical procedure, if there is a chance that you might be pregnant, inform your physician.

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