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Bone Imaging

Bone imaging is an important type of test for evaluating bone health and bone conditions. Virtua uses the latest technology to perform these scans. Its staff members have extensive experience interpreting the results.

Bone Densitometry

Bone densitometry is a special type of X-ray test that can reveal the density of bone matter. Radiologists use this most common approach to measuring bone density to reveal the strength of bones and to highlight areas where mild or early bone loss (osteopenia) or serious bone thinning (osteoporosis) is taking place. Called DEXA or DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), the test shows how much calcium and minerals are concentrated in the bone. It directs two X-ray beams with differing energy levels at bone and measures their absorption in the bone.

Virtua offers DEXA scanning at its Willingboro, Burlington County, location, where it uses units that can read the density of the spine, hips and other centrally located bone structures (central densitometry), as well as peripherally located bones. In this brief, painless test, the Virtua team images areas of high concern for fracture, including the spine, hip, femur and wrist. Radiation exposure from this test is low.

Virtua uses the most current densitometry equipment:

  • Computer-aided detection built into the Virtua densitometry system helps radiologists and technologists spot areas of concerns.
  • Patients can bring images from previous bone densitometry tests with them. The staff can load these in the system to compare to current readings, and provide a baseline comparison for changes over time.

Reports from this test help a patient’s primary physicians to formulate a treatment plan that may include further testing, medication, supplements and changes in diet and exercise. Repeat tests help determine the progress of treatment. Detecting bone loss is an important preventive step that can help patients avoid future fractures that have the potential to prove debilitating and dangerous.

Preconditions for a bone densitometry studyPatients should consult their primary physicians to determine if they meet risk criteria for bone density testing. Most insurers cover bone density evaluations if patients satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • their physician has determined that they are estrogen deficient and at risk for osteoporosis;
  • they have a spinal abnormality, demonstrated by X-ray, that indicates low bone density or a fracture;
  • they are receiving or expecting to receive long-term corticosteroid (glucocorticoid) therapy, for example with prednisone;
  • or they have a calcium disorder (e.g., hyperparathyroidism).

Bone Scanning

Bone scanning is one of the most common tests provided in the nuclear medicine section of a radiology department. For a bone scan, the staff first injects the patient with a safe, low-level radioactive isotope bound to phosphate-based substance that accumulates in cells that are rebuilding bone areas as a result of bone breakdown. Scanning the emissions from this tracer gives a picture of skeletal areas, including areas of abnormal activity or metabolism due to efforts by the bone to heal. This test can identify and track areas needing diagnosis and care for a range of bone conditions. It can:

  • highlight damage from bone infection (osteomyelitis);
  • show cancer that has spread to bone or is affecting bone;
  • help define arthritis;
  • provide information on unexplained bone pain that may be due to bone loss or inflammation;
  • determine if bones have impaired blood supply;
  • evaluate the effect of metabolic disorders on bone;
  • and identify a bone injury not visible on a regular X-ray, especially stress injuries.

If need be, the nuclear medicine team can scan the entire body in a single examination. The test can highlight problems at an early stage.

Patients excrete the radiotracer in their urine over several hours. Radiologists will often follow-up a bone scan with a CT scan or MR imaging, to help diagnose areas of activities demonstrated by the bone scan.

More information on bone imaging.

To arrange for radiology services at Virtua Our Lady of Virtua or Virtua Willingboro Hospital:


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