Diagnosing Bone Disorders

How are bone disorders diagnosed?

Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, other tests to diagnose bone disorders include:

  • Lab tests on blood, urine, and other body fluids

  • X-ray. An X-ray can show injuries, such as fractures, infections, arthritis, and other changes.

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI scan provides detailed images of soft tissue, the bone marrow cavity, and bone tumors.

  • Bone densitometry. Bone densitometry is often used to detect osteoporosis. The test measures bone mass in the spine, hips, and arms. These are the areas most likely to fracture when bone mass is low.

  • Radionuclide bone scan. The bone scan is used to pinpoint the location of bone tumors, as well as to detect spread to other bones. It's also used to diagnose stress fractures or tiny cracks in the bones

  • Biopsy. Tissue samples are removed and examined under a microscope. It's done to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present. Two types of biopsy, including:

    • Needle biopsy. A needle is inserted into the bone to obtain tissue.

    • Open biopsy. A surgical procedure in which an incision is made through the skin to and allow a sample of tissue to be cut or scraped away.