Bone Health Program

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DXA Center

Bone Health DXA CenterWe evaluate bone density in our DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) Center, the gold standard in bone density measurement. It is a safe and painless scan performed in a private, child-friendly room. Two x-ray beams, each with different levels of energy, are directed at your child’s bones. The amount of energy absorbed by the bones tells us the bone density.


At the Bone Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, we provide comprehensive evaluations and treatment to children and adolescents who have, or are at risk for, low bone density.  We have been treating patients since 2000.

Low bone density may be associated with several medical conditions, including:

  • anorexia nervosa
  • cystic fibrosis
  • inflammatory bowel
  • treatment with long-term immune suppressants (for transplantation)
  • parenteral nutrition.

Regardless of any accompanying condition your child may have, we’re here to help. 

Bone density research

We’re committed to helping parents protect their children from low bone density. Boston Children’s researchers are currently investigating:

  • the link between nutrition, particularly vitamin D, and bone health
  • lifestyle variables that affect the development of peak bone mass
  • strategies to prevent bone loss in young women suffering from eating disorders
  • risk factors associated with stress fractures in female athletes

We understand that children and adolescents with low bone density have a wide variety of needs, and we strive to provide patient-focused, empathetic and compassionate care.







Body composition:
The division of soft tissue into fat and lean tissue, based on the patient's R-value. Body composition is sometimes referred to as tissue quantitation.

Bone density:
The ratio of bone mass to volume, indicating bone compactness. Bone density increases rapidly through adolescence, more slowly until age 35 and then plateaus and declines. Bone density is measured most frequently in the spine, hip, wrist, forearm and/or heel for the detection and diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Bone mass:
The amount of mineral in a bone. Although this is different from bone density, the terms are often used interchangeably.


Bone mineral density (BMD):
The quantity calculated by dividing the measured bone mineral content by the measured bone area in a densitometry study. The bone mineral density carries units of gram per square centimeter and is most often compared to reference population values.


Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. A type of bone density testing that uses X-rays to measure the bone density.
More info on DXA




A skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength predisposing to an increased risk of fracture. Bone strength reflects the integration of two main features: bone density and bone quality. In children, osteoporosis is defined by both a low bone density measurement and evidence of skeletal fragility. (Rauch F, Plotkin H, DiMeglio L, Engelbert RH, Henderson RC, Munns C, Wenkert D, and Zeitler P (2008) Fracture prediction and the definition of osteoporosis in children and adolescents: ISCD 2007 Pediatric Official Positions. J Clin Densitometry 11:22-28
More info on osteoporosis




Peak bone mass:
A concept that bone mass has a maximal level given optimal conditions. Peak bone mass is believed to be controlled by genetic factors (age, sex and body size) and significantly impacted by environmental factors (nutrition, exercise and general health). The concept of peak bone mass is important to the study of bone disease in that if an individual achieves maximal (peak) bone mass, they may reduce the risk of serious bone loss.




DXA request form


The Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) Request Form has to be completed thoroughly by the primary care provider or the referring doctor who is requesting a bone density test on their patient. The DXA requisition is used by a doctor specializing in bone health and the technologists to help identify which skeletal scan sites will be scanned for a patient.

This test can not be performed without a DXA requisition. The order has to be completed in Power charts by a Children's Hospital doctor. Outside providers are to use the link below and then fax it back to the number listed on requisition. We will have to cancel the patient appointment within 24 hours if the requisition is not received prior to that date.


Donate to our program



Our program relies on the kind donations of people and groups interested in supporting our work. Our research program is multidisciplinary and is dedicated to pediatric bone health.


We are fortunate to be a part of the number one pediatric hospital in New England, and one of the top hospitals in the country, with first-class physicians and researchers who explore the causes and symptoms of pediatric low bone density and new and improved treatments. Donor partnerships in our efforts are very much appreciated.


Recent Donors
We would like to thank The Children's Hospital League, The McCarthy Family Foundation, and Susan and John Gevertz, from Scarsdale, NY, for their continued support and partnership with the Bone Health Program.

How to donate

  1. Click on the donations link.
  2. Click on "Make a Gift Now" (purple button in upper left).
  3. Click "Make a Single Gift."
  4. Enter gift amount.
  5. Under Gift to Support, select "Other" in the drop-down menu.
  6. In the blank field, please enter "Bone Health Program."
  7. Fill in additional information and click "Process My Gift. "

Thank you!

Boston Children's Hospital Trust
1 Autumn Street, #731
Boston, MA 02215-5301











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