Abstract This paper describes a novel approach to estimate broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) in a bone structure in human in vivo using coded excitation. BUA is an accepted indicator for assessment of osteoporosis. In the tested approach a coded acoustic signal is emitted and then the received echoes are compressed into brief, high amplitude pulses making use of matched filters and correlation receivers. In this way the acoustic peak pressure amplitude probing the tissue can be markedly decreased whereas the average transmitted intensity increases proportionally to the length of the code. This paper examines the properties of three different transmission schemes, based on Barker code, chirp and Golay code. The system designed is capable of generating 16 bits complementary Golay code (CGC), linear frequency modulated (LFM) chirp and 13-bit Barker code (BC) at 0.5 and 1 MHz center frequencies. Both in vivo data acquired from healthy heel bones and in vitro data obtained from human calcaneus were examined and the comparison between the results using coded excitation and two cycles sine burst is presented. It is shown that CGC system allows the effective range of frequencies employed in the measurement of broadband acoustic energy attenuation in the trabecular bone to be doubled in comparison to the standard 0.5 MHz pulse transmission. The algorithm used to calculate the pairs of Golay sequences of the different length, which provide the temporal side-lobe cancellation is also presented. Current efforts are focused on adapting the system developed for operation in pulse-echo mode; this would allow examination and diagnosis of bones with limited access such as hip bone.