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Part of the Massachusetts General Hospital Endocrine Unit, the Bone Density Center provides leading-edge bone density testing services to help your primary care physician or specialist develop a treatment program tailored to your needs.
Osteoporosis is the most common cause of low bone mineral density. Bone density testing is very effective in diagnosing this condition, determining your risk for fractures and monitoring your response to therapy.
Early diagnosis of osteoporosis enables your doctor to begin proactive treatment to reduce your risk for fractures. Even if osteoporosis is diagnosed at a more advanced stage, you can still realize substantial benefits from treatment.
Based on your doctor’s referral, the Bone Density Center performs one of several tests to determine the causes of your symptoms and provide your primary care physician or specialist with information to help develop a treatment plan.
The standard test for men, women and children measures bone density of the spine and hip. In certain cases, we may also run tests to identify any fractures in your spine or to measure the bone density of your forearm or whole body.
All of our tests use dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), making for a pain-free process that uses very low doses of radiation and lasts only about 10 minutes.
Most medical insurance companies cover bone density testing for patients with certain medical conditions, though many insurers limit the frequency of these tests.
Bone density scans should not be performed for one week following any barium examination (such as barium swallow, GI series, barium enema, abdominal CT) or nuclear examination.
It is recommended that patients avoid taking calcium supplements, TUMS (antacids), or multivitamins for at least 24 hours prior to their scan.
On the day of the scan, patients are encouraged to wear loose, comfortable clothing, preferably without metal (e.g. zippers, buttons and underwire bras).
Our standard reports include measurement of your bone density and how it has changed over time. Your results are compared with the normal range for:
Your bone density reports are available to your doctor within 3 to 5 business days and include general recommendations for medical management.
If your bone density is normal, you may not need further testing for years. If your bone density is low or you have had a fracture, you may benefit from medical treatment and/or future monitoring with bone density tests.
Most forms of osteoporosis can be treated by your primary care physician. If you have a complex case, your doctor may refer you to Mass General Endocrine and Osteoporosis Associates for specialized care.
Founded in 1976, the Massachusetts General Hospital Bone Density Center was the first center of its kind in the eastern United States. The Bone Density Center played an important role in the development of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), the current standard for measuring bone mineral density. DXA allows physicians to diagnose osteoporosis and related bone diseases early, often before you suffer a fracture.
DXA is also an important tool for researching and developing new osteoporosis treatments. Using DXA, our physicians and researchers can determine the effectiveness of specific treatments in groups of patients and in individuals. This capability has accelerated the development and application of improved methods to treat osteoporosis.
Mass General was the first hospital to employ DXA in a clinical setting and in osteoporosis research. Robert Neer, MD, Bone Density Center founder, wrote the first paper describing the use of DXA in humans. He also coined the term "T-score" to describe the density of an adult's bones compared with that of the average young adult of the same gender and ethnicity. This score serves as a rough indicator of the need for osteoporosis treatment.
Our diagnostic technology includes:
Recently, we added a new technique called vertebral fracture analysis (VFA). This test of the lower and upper spine can detect the presence of a fracture. If you have a vertebral fracture you have much higher risk of having another fracture in the next three to five years.
In addition, we are one of the few programs in the United States using a dedicated, high-resolution CT scanner for research measurements of bone density and bone structure. This equipment produces images down to the microscopic level—and appears to provide even better diagnostic information than DXA technology. While the scanner is currently used for experimental purposes only, it may one day become the standard for bone density testing.
We often recruit for clinical trials that offer access to new and promising therapies. Search for open clinical trials
The same endocrinologists who analyze and interpret our patients' bone density tests also conduct osteoporosis research and have successfully competed for external research-support funds.
As part of an academic medical center, our physicians are committed to training the next generation of endocrinologists and osteoporosis experts. Through the Endocrinology Fellowship Program, we help to prepare physicians for careers in clinical and academic medicine.
Sheri-Ann Burnett-Bowie, MD, MPHJoel Finkelstein, MDBenjamin Leder, MDJoy Tsai, MDElaine Yu, MD
Robbin ClearySheila GnerreSarah Zhang
Nancy McKieDiane Puopolo
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease in which there is a loss of bone mass and destruction of bone tissue, causing weakening of the bones in the hips, spine and wrists.
The Massachusetts General Hospital Bone Density Center offers dual-energy absorptiometry tests (DXA) for research studies.
A scanning appointment is approximately 15 minutes and involves low radiation exposure (less than a routine chest x-ray). With applications for both cross-sectional and longitudinal research, investigators have employed our facilities and expertise to study a variety of bone-related diseases and body composition endpoints with participants ranging in age from children to older adults.
The research goal of the Bone Density Center is to provide research facilities and personnel on a per study basis, allowing investigators access to important information about bone density without requiring special expertise and equipment. We perform rigorous quality control measures to ensure high quality data and reproducibility. Our scans are performed by DXA technicians (certified by the International Society of Clinical Densitometry, ISCD) and are additionally independently reviewed by ISCD-certified physicians.
To begin a DXA study or to inquire further about research rates, please contact the Director, Dr. Elaine Yu.
Director: Elaine Yu, MDPhone: 617-643-6353Email
Associate Director: Joy Tsai, M.D.Phone: 617-726-4650Email
Managing Coordinator: Deborah FitzgeraldPhone: 617-726-6723Email
Location: MGH Bone Density Center, 10 Emerson Place, Suite 1, Boston, MA 02114Major Equipment: Hologic Discovery DXA system (Hologic, Waltham, MA)
Lumbar Spine (PA and lateral) and Proximal Femur (femoral neck and total hip) DensityThe Bone Density Center can assess clinically relevant skeletal sites with high quality control.
Forearm DensityScanning of the 1/3 distal radius provides information about a skeletal site predominantly composed of cortical bone.
Whole Body Bone Density and Body CompositionWhole body bone density and body composition analysis provides information about bone mineral content, lean body mass, fat mass (percent fat), and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).
Vertebral Fracture AnalysisThis test of the thoracic and lumbar spine can detect the presence of a fracture. Radiographically-identified vertebral fractures increase the risk of future fractures over the next three to five years.
ReportingScan results including all measurements for a specific research protocol are provided on a monthly basis. Additional reports can be requested when needed to respond to deadlines for grant submissions or publications.
Scan ReviewEach scan is initially analyzed by a senior technician and then reviewed by a physician member of the Bone Density Center. All technicians and physicians are certified by the International Society for Clinical Densitometry (ISCD).
Emerson Place10 Emerson Place, Suite 1Boston, MA02114
The MGH Bone Density Center is conveniently located at 10 Emerson Place, across the street from Massachusetts General Hospital. We are handicap accessible.
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From the Mass General main lobby, walk straight through the hospital to the Gray Building lobby and exit the building onto Blossom St. Cross Blossom St. towards 0 Emerson Place. Walk along the sidewalk in front of 0 Emerson Place until you can turn left. Follow the sidewalk to the front of 10 Emerson Place. Look for a sign pointing to Bone Density, Suite One. It is the second door to the right of the main entrance.
Take the MBTA Red Line to the MGH/Charles St. station. Follow the signs from the station to the Main Entrance of Mass General and enter the main lobby. Follow the directions listed above.
From the North:Take I-93 South or Route 1 South towards Boston. Take Storrow Drive West to the Government Center exit (left exit). At the end of the ramp, yield to crossing traffic at the flashing signal, then proceed straight. At the traffic light, make a slight left turn onto Cambridge St. (Do not turn sharp left into the rotary.) At the first set of lights, turn left onto North Grove St. and follow the signs to park in one of the main garages. Enter the main lobby and follow the directions listed above.
From the South:Take I-93 North and follow the signs to Storrow Drive. Take Storrow Drive West to the Government Center exit (left exit). At the end of the ramp, yield to crossing traffic at the flashing signal, then proceed straight. At the traffic light, make a slight left turn onto Cambridge St. (Do not turn sharp left into the rotary.) At the first set of lights, turn left onto North Grove St. and follow the signs to park in one of the main garages. Enter the main lobby and follow the directions listed above.
From the West: Take I-90 East to Exit 18 (Brighton/Cambridge) and follow the signs to Cambridge/Somerville. Turn right onto Storrow Drive eastbound to downtown Boston. Stay on Storrow Drive East to the Government Center exit. At the end of the ramp continue across onto Cambridge St. (Do not turn sharp left into the rotary.) At the first set of lights, turn left onto North Grove St. and follow the signs to park in one of the main garages. Enter the main lobby and follow the directions listed above.
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