Myelogram

A myelogram is a test to check problems with your spinal canal, including the spinal cord, nerve roots, and spinal lining. The canal is a tunnel-like structure in your spine that holds your spinal cord. A myelogram uses a dye injected into the spinal canal with the guidance of imaging, usually by fluoroscopy (real time X-ray), X-ray, or computed tomography (CT). Pictures are then taken of your spinal canal.

How do I get ready for a myelogram?

  • Don’t eat the morning of the test. But you can drink water or other clear fluids.

  • If told to, stop taking medicines before the test.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home.

Tell the healthcare provider

Tell the healthcare provider if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be

  • Have any bleeding problems

  • Take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or other medicines. These include aspirin, certain antipsychotic medicines, and antidepressants. You may be told to stop taking these one or more days before your test. 

  • Have had back surgery or low-back pain

  • Have any allergies

What happens during a myelogram?

  • You will change into a hospital gown.

  • X-rays of your spine will be taken.

  • Your lower back will be cleaned, covered with drapes, and injected with a numbing medicine.

  • Your doctor will advance a thin needle under guidance, usually using fluoroscopy, into your spinal canal space.

  • Your doctor will inject contrast fluid (dye) into your spinal canal. The doctor may take out a small amount of spinal fluid.

  • Additional X-rays will be taken.

  • If you need a CT test, it will follow the X-rays.

What happens after a myelogram?

  • Take it easy for the rest of the day, as advised.

  • Avoid physical activity, or bending over for 1 to 2 days after the procedure, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Lie down with your head raised if you get a headache, or if instructed to do so.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Your provider will discuss the test results with you at a follow-up appointment.

What are the risks of a myelogram?

  • Small risks of pain, bleeding or infection at the injection site or within or around the spinal canal

  • Headache

  • Injury to a nerve or the spinal cord at the injection site

  • X-ray radiation exposure (generally considered to be low risk and safe)

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if:

  • You have a headache that lasts 2 days or more

  • Fever of 100.4 °F (38°C) 

  • You have lasting pain in your back, or tingling in your groin or legs

  • Or, whatever your healthcare provider told you to report based on your medical condition

Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Last Review Date: 5/1/2017
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