A myelogram uses X-rays and a special dye called contrast material to make pictures of the
bones and the fluid-filled space (subarachnoid space) between the bones in your
spine (spinal canal). A myelogram may be done to find a tumor, an infection,
problems with the spine such as a
herniated disc, or narrowing of the spinal canal
The spinal canal holds the
spinal cord, spinal nerve roots, and the subarachnoid space.
During the test, a dye is put into
the subarachnoid space with a thin needle. The dye moves through the
space so the nerve roots and spinal cord can be seen more clearly.
Pictures may be taken before and after the dye is used. To get more information from the test, a
CT scan is often done after the X-rays, while the dye is still in your body.
A myelogram is done to check
A myelogram may help find the cause of pain that cannot be
found by other tests, such as an
MRI or a CT scan.
Your doctor will tell you if you need to change how much you eat and drink before the myelogram. You may be asked to increase the amount of water you drink before the test. Follow the instructions exactly about eating and drinking, or your test may be canceled.
Before a myelogram, tell your doctor if you:
Arrange to have someone take you home and stay with you
after the test.
to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for
the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the
importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
The test is done by a doctor in
a radiology center or in the radiology department of a hospital.
You will need
to take off jewelry that might be in the way of the X-ray picture. You may need
to take off all or most of your clothes above the waist (you may be allowed to
keep on your underwear if it does not get in the way of the test). You will be
given a gown to wear during the test.
You will have a lumbar puncture to put the dye into your spinal
canal. You will lie on your stomach or side on an X-ray table. The doctor
cleans an area on your lower back. A numbing medicine is put into your skin.
After the area is numb,
a thin needle is put into the spinal canal and a stream of X-rays
(fluoroscopy) is used to help the doctor place the needle in the right area. A
sample of spinal canal fluid may be taken
before the dye is put in the canal.
After the dye is put in, you
will lie still while the X-ray pictures are taken.
pictures are taken, a small bandage is put on your back where the needle
was put in. You will be told what to do after the test.
This test usually takes 30
minutes to 1 hour.
You may need to lie in bed with your head raised for 4 to 24 hours after the
test. To prevent seizures, do not bend over or lie down with your head lower
than your body.
Avoid strenuous activity, such as running or heavy lifting, for at least 1 day after the test.
Drink plenty of water afterward. Your
doctor will give you instructions on taking your regular medicines.
You will feel a quick sting from the
small needle used to numb the skin on your back. You will feel some pressure as
the long, thin spinal needle is put into your spinal canal. You may feel a
quick sharp pain down your buttock or leg when the needle is moved in your
spine. You may find it hard to lie on your stomach or side during this
The dye may make you feel warm and flushed and leave a
metallic taste in your mouth. Some people feel sick to their stomach or have a
headache. Tell your doctor how you are feeling.
There is some risk of problems with this test.
911 or other emergency services
right away if you have a seizure.
Call your doctor right away
Your doctor will talk to you about the results of your test.
The dye flows evenly through
the spinal canal.
The spinal cord is normal in
size, position, and shape. The nerves leaving the spinal cord are normal.
No narrowing or blockage of
the spinal canal is seen.
The flow of dye is blocked or
diverted. This may be due to a ruptured herniated
spinal stenosis, a nerve injury, an
abscess, or a tumor.
Inflammation of the membrane
(arachnoid membrane) that covers the spinal cord is seen.
One or more nerves leaving the
spinal cord are pinched.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
July 14, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
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