Osteoporosis, the loss of calcium from bone, must be prevented and treated. Effective intervention requires accurate measurement of bone density. Treating osteoporosis without this vital measurement is like filling your tires with air without the benefit of a tire gauge.
The current state of the art in the determination of bone density is dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scanning. A modern DEXA scanner gives extremely accurate and reproducible results in about five minutes. A DEXA scan requires no needles or medications, is completely painless, and delivers less radiation than a regular chest x-ray. The built-in computer database compares the density of the patient's bones with a "control" or average of a number of healthy young people. These numbers are compared to standards published by the World Health Organization (WHO) so the doctor can determine the best treatment for each patient. The osteoporosis expert uses the DEXA results to create a treatment program individually tailored to the patient's needs. The DEXA scan should be repeated at regular intervals to continually reassess the beneficial effects of medications, exercise, and physical therapy.
Unfortunately, most doctors only think that they know how to use these numbers. The devil is in the details. Make sure that your scan is interpreted by a doctor who is certified by the ISCD (International Society for Clinical Densitometry). This is the only way to be sure of accuracy, and accuracy is the only way to assure the proper treatment.