In the course of my daily work, I continue to get patients that have no idea what a Bone Mineral Density test (BMD) involves. Some think it is similar to a bone scan (which is a Nuclear Medicine test), or an MRI or a CT (CAT) scan. Others think it involves needles or drills to get a sample of bone to test! Ouch!
In fact, a BMD test (sometimes referred to as a DEXA, or DXA scan) is quite likely one of the easiest medical tests you will ever have. All it really involves is for the patient to lie on their back on a cushioned table top while being scanned. A typical exam involves the scanning of the Lumbar (or, lower) spine and one hip, usually the left, sometimes both. If one of these areas cannot be scanned for some reason, such as scoliosis (excessive curvature of the spine), or metal hip replacements or surgically placed metal rods or screws in the lower spine, then a forearm scan is performed.
A typical scan takes only a few minutes, after a relevant medical history along with the patient's weight and height are taken. As you can see, the arrangement is by no means claustrophobic and the radiation dose is so low that the technologist operating the machine is seated close nearby. Some facilities will require you change into a patient gown, removing any items with zippers, buttons, belts, etc. Others may ask you to come dressed in clothing without any metal objects on them and in this case you will not need to change and can be safely scanned in the clothes you are wearing. It will depend on the department's protocol as to what they require you to wear (or not wear).
After your scan is completed, the results are prepared by the technologist for the Radiologist (a medical doctor specializing in radiology interpretation) to report. It is the radiologist's report that the referring doctor receives. The technologist is trained to operate the machine efficiently as well as caring for the patient's needs. They cannot (and really should not) give patients any personal observations on what they see on a scan.
So as you can see, a BMD test is pretty simple after all and is nothing to be unduly concerned over. If you still have questions, feel free to ask your doctor, or contact the Radiology department before your scan.
James M. Fisher has been a Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional" since 2003. His website is http://www.WindowsTalk.org. He is also a Medical Radiation Technologist and works in Bone Density Testing, MRI and General Radiography.