Bone densitometry

What is bone densitometry?

Bone densitometry is the measure of bone content and strength.

Reduced bone density and osteoporosis, a medical condition that weakens your bones, increases the risk of fracture.

Bone density is measured using a dual energy X-ray (DXA) scanner, a special type of X-ray that measures bone mineral density (BMD). It provides information about bone strength or fragility and the risk of fractures or broken bones. The lower the density, generally, the higher the risk of fracture.

The test takes about 30 minutes to perform and usually measures bone density in the lumbar spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.   

Scanning the hip and spine is the best way of predicting the risk of fracture at these sites. Total body measurements and body composition can also be measured.  The radiation exposure in these tests is very low.

The amount of bone present is compared to the gender based average for a young adult and age matched peer to identify those at risk of developing osteoporosis and to monitor change with or without treatment.

Rural Mobile Bone Density Service

In addition to the 4 bone densitometry sites, a dedicated mobile service for rural South Australia is also operated through the SA Medical Imaging (SAMI) Nuclear Medicine service at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH). 

Established in 1994 as the first mobile rural Bone Density service in Australia and having scanned over 30,000 patients, it continues to be our goal to make this service accessible to country patients.  The mobile bone density service has visited approximately 50 locations across the state, averaging 18 towns per year. The locations and visit dates are determined each year with the service returning to each region every 1 – 2 years.


The service is staffed by a SAMI technologist. The service uses a GE-LUNAR Prodigy dual energy X-ray densitometer, and the mobile unit consists of a patient waiting area, scanning room and technologist workspace.

Please be aware that access to the vehicle is via two steps and a hand rail. Patients unable to climb steps should consider visiting a fixed SAMI bone densitometry site.


Images and results will be transmitted to the SA Health Clinical information systems and reported by a SAMI Nuclear Medicine Specialist. Hard copy results are delivered to your referring Doctor within 7 working days, and can also be accessed by your Doctor electronically via Medinexus within 2 working days. 


Bookings may be made at any time during the year by telephoning the SAMI RAH Nuclear Medicine service on telephone 1300 724 319.

The service can also be contacted for the Mobile Bone Density Service site location schedule.

There is no out of pocket expense for Medicare eligible patients.

When attending the service, please bring your Medicare card, written referral and any concession cards. Your study cannot be performed without a referral – as per South Australian legislation.