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Myelogram

A myelogram is a test to check problems with your spinal canal. The canal is a tunnel-like structure in your spine that holds your spinal cord. A myelogram uses X-ray or computed tomography (CT) to take pictures of your spinal canal.

Woman lying face down on table under scanner. Health care provider wearing led vest is tilting table and looking at monitor.
The exam table may be tilted during the X-ray.

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 health care provider

Tell the health care 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 1 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, into your spinal canal space.

  • Your doctor will inject contrast fluid 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.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call your health care provider right away if:

  • You have a headache that lasts 2 days or more

  • Fever (1°F above your normal temperature) lasting for 24 to 48 hours

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

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

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 health care 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)

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Qureshi, Javed, MD
Last Review Date: 6/19/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.