clinical indications for bone densitometry

Last reviewed 07/2021

These include:

  • a patient with a history of a low trauma fracture e.g. spine, hip, distal forearm
  • an incidental X-ray finding of osteopenia or vertebral collapse or in the investigation of thoracic kyphosis or loss of height
  • if there is maternal history of hip fracture
  • if the patient has a low body mass index (BMI < 19 kg/m^2)
  • if the patient has received corticosteroid treatment (prednisolone 7.5 mg or more) for greater than three months
  • oestrogen deficiency:
    • in a patient with premature menopause (< 45 years of age)
    • primary hypogonadism
    • secondary amenorrhoea (which lasts more than six months) e.g. secondary to GnRH anologues
  • where there are conditions that predispose to secondary osteoporosis including:
    • malabsorption syndromes e.g. coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease
    • long-term treatment with anticonvulsants
    • organ transplantation
    • eating disorders
    • chronic renal failure
    • thyrotoxicosis
    • primary hyperparathyroidism
    • Cushing's syndrome
    • male hypogonadism
    • prolonged immobilisation

Therefore it is inappropriate to scan premenopausal women without any additional risk factors apart from a family history of osteoporosis or patients with back pain unless there is X-ray evidence of a recent vertebral crush fracture (1).

Monitoring therapy - at intervals of at least 18 months (2)


  1. GP magazine (16/3/01), 52.
  2. ARC.Hands On 2007;11:1-6.
  3. Osteoporosis Clinical guidelines for prevention and treatment. Update on pharmacological interventions and an algorithm for management. Royal College of Physicians, Bone and Tooth Society of Great Britain July 2000.