Frequently asked Questions

Why have I been referred for a fracture risk assessment?

You have been referred because you may be at risk of osteoporosis.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which thinning of the bones makes the bones fragile. Broken bones (fractures) happen easily in people with osteoporosis.

How can you tell if I have osteoporosis?

The most accurate test to identify osteoporosis is a bone mineral density (BMD) measurement using a DXA scanner. A measurement is usually made of the lower spine and one hip.

What is a DXA scan?

The DXA scanner measures the amount of calcium in the bone. This tells us about the strength of the bones and the risk of breaking bones in the future.

What does the DXA scan involve?

You will be asked to lie down for the scans. For the spine scan your legs will be supported on a big cushion. For the hip scan one foot will be supported to keep your leg in the right position. You will be asked to keep still while each scan is being done (about 2 to 3 minutes each). The arm of the scanner will move during the scan but you will not be in an enclosed space at any time. You may also have a VFA scan.

What is a VFA scan?

A VFA (vertebral fracture assessment) scan shows the shape of the bones in your spine to see if the bones have become damaged due to osteoporosis.

How safe are DXA and VFA scans?

DXA and VFA use very small amounts of x-rays. The dose of x-rays is about the same as you will be exposed to naturally in a day and is much less than in other tests such as a chest x-ray. They are therefore very safe tests. However, if there is any chance you may be pregnant please tell us before your scan as the scan might not be safe for a developing baby.

Do I have to prepare for the scan?

If you wear clothes without any metal in them then you may not need to undress. Metal interferes with the DXA measurement and must be kept away from the area of the scan. You will be asked to take off any clothes containing metal (such as zips, corsets and underwired bras) and will be given a gown to wear.

The scan result may also be affected if you have had recent tests such as an isotope scan or barium x-ray. If this is the case your scan may need to be delayed.

Why have I been asked to fill in a questionnaire?

The questionnaire gives us important information about your bone health over and above the scan results. If you need treatment the information from the questionnaire will help us advise what the best treatment for you is.

Will any other tests be done?

Depending on the result of your scan, we may also arrange other tests on the same day. These may include x-rays, blood tests and a urine test. These will give us further information about your bone health.

How long will my appointment take?

The scans will take 15 to 20 minutes in total. If you need x-rays you will need to visit the x-ray department nearby and may have a wait. If you need blood tests these will be done at the end of your visit and will take another 10 to 15 minutes. You should allow at least 2 hours for you appointment in total as we do not know until you have had your scan what other tests are needed. Please note that, whilst we try to see patients at the time of their appointment, delays can sometimes occur. If this happens we will keep you informed.

How will I find out the result of my tests?

A report will be sent to the doctor who referred you. If this was not your GP, a copy will also be sent to the GP surgery. The report will give the result of the scans and any other tests. The report will also give advice about treatment if this is required. You will be advised when the report should reach your doctor. This will usually be within 4 weeks of your appointment.

What if the scan shows I have osteoporosis?

If you have osteoporosis you may be advised to take treatment, usually in the form of tablets. You may be offered an appointment in the metabolic bone clinic to have further tests and discuss the results.

Who can I contact if I have any questions?

If you have any questions please contact us on 0114 271 5340.

Please remember

• To bring your completed questionnaire
• To allow at least 2 hours for your appointment
• If possible, to wear clothes with no metal in them
• To let us know if you have had a recent barium x-ray or isotope scan
• To let us know if you could be pregnant


Additional Information

Metabolic Bone Centre
Sorby Wing, Northern General Hospital
Herries Road
S5 7AU

Telephone Appointments
0114 2715340

0114 2714783

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