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How soon are test results usually available? Should I get a copy of the results of the testing?

Your clinician may get your bone density test results immediately, but more often than not, test results are available from 1 to 3 weeks after a test is done. You and your clinician should make a plan to discuss the results once they are available. Talking about how and when you will be informed of the results will eliminate confusion. For example, if you have normal bone

Talking about how and when you will be informed of the results will eliminate confusion.

density, will your clinician contact you? Or should you call for results? Some clinicians do not call if results are normal, so you need to be certain that your clinician has the right contact information and that "no news is good news." If your testing shows low bone mass or osteoporosis, will you need to have a follow-up visit with your clinician? Or can you discuss treatment options over the phone with your clinician?

To eliminate confusion and potential misunderstanding, when your tests are ordered, you should first determine if the clinician's office makes the testing appointment or if you must do that yourself. You should also ask your clinician when the results will be available after your scheduled test, how you will be contacted, whether a follow-up visit is required, and if so, with whom.

Some people like to have copies of their test results so that they can track their own progress, but it's not necessary to get a copy of the results of your testing. It's more important for you to know if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis so that if you must seek medical care from other providers or if you have a fall and are taken to a hospital emergency department, you will be able to inform the new providers of your diagnosis and if you are being treated.

If my BMD test results are normal, when should I be screened again? If my test results show either osteopenia or osteoporosis, when should my test be repeated?

If your BMD results are normal, you should be screened again 2 years after the first screening, unless your risk factors change. For example, if you develop an illness requiring that you take a steroid medication, your clinician may want to reconsider the time of your next screening. Medicare currently covers bone mineral density testing every 2 years.

Because BMD tests can be quite expensive, you may not be able to afford them if you do not have insurance to cover them. Some insurance companies will pay for retesting and monitoring based on the clinician's orders. You might be retested every 6 months to 1 year depending on your level of bone loss, your other illnesses or medications, and your treatment. If your BMD test results remain the same for two or more tests, the interval between retesting could be lengthened. You should contact the member services department of your health insurance company or HMO to get information about coverage for BMD tests. Ask when you can be screened and when you can be retested according to their guidelines. Some clinicians don't think it's necessary to monitor BMD every year because there is not enough time to show a significant difference in bone density. Most clinicians will monitor density every 2 to 3 years for those on treatment or to demonstrate stability over time. After two or more BMD tests show that bone density is not changing, a longer interval between tests is appropriate.

When you are retested to monitor the progress of treatment, keep in mind that it is important to use the same machine and preferably the same person operating the machine (who can be a nurse or technician). Each machine is calibrated differently, and keeping the same one gives more consistent results and measurable changes (see Question 69).

More important, you will be more at risk for fracturing any bone in your body.

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