A myelogram is one invasive diagnostic test that offers x-rays to examine the spinal canal. A unique dye is injected into the spinal canal v a hollow needle. One x-ray fluoroscope then documents the images formed by the dye. Myelograms deserve to show problems affecting the spinal cord and also nerves within the spinal canal.

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How walk a myelogram work?

Regular x-rays that the spine only provide a clear picture of bones. The dye (contrast agent) offered in a myelogram reflects up white ~ above the x-ray permitting the physician to check out the spinal cord, exiting nerves, and canal in detail. The medical professional inserts a hollow needle v your skin into the spinal canal. The dye is injected right into the space surrounding the spinal cord and also nerve roots (Fig. 1). This dye is radiopaque, meaning it’s impenetrable by x-ray. Then x-rays and/or a CT scan space done (Fig. 2). The scan can see fine details and also can tell your doctor exactly how your bones are affecting your nerves.

figure 1. A needle is inserted in the subarachnoid an are to inject the contrast dye.
figure 2. The contrast dye makes the spinal canal clearly visible on an x-ray (left). Stenosis and scoliosis have the right to be checked out compressing the spinal nerves on the CT scan (right).

What go a myelogram show?

A myelogram deserve to detect problems affecting the spinal cord and nerves within the spinal canal, consisting of disc herniations, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, tumors, and infection.

Who performs the test?

A radiologist will do the test in the radiology room of the hospital or in ~ an outpatient imaging center.

How have to I prepare for the test?

There are particular medications, including but not minimal to, aspirin, blood thinners such together warfarin (Coumadin) and clopidogrel bisulfate (Plavix), antidepressants, and also Glucophage because that diabetes that might interfere through the dye offered in the test. Girlfriend will have to discontinue these medications several days before the day of the test. Girlfriend should call your doctor’s office once your meeting is booked to discuss your medications. They will provide you specific instructions for acquisition your medications on the work of the myelogram.

Drink as much fluid as possible up come midnight the day before your myelogram do NOT EAT ANYTHING after ~ MIDNIGHT (diabetics might have various instructions) do arrangements to have someone remain with girlfriend while in the hospital and to journey you to and also from the hospital. You will certainly not have the ability to drive you yourself home.

Before the test, you will certainly be inquiry to change into a hospital gown. One intravenous (IV) line may be put in your arm. The radiologist or nurse will comment on the test v you, explain the risks, answer any kind of questions, and have you sign consent forms.

What happens during the test?

Step 1: prepare the patient A doctor and also at the very least one technician will be in the room. You will certainly lie on your stomach v a pillow beneath it. After cleaning your ago with a cooling antiseptic, the medical professional will numb the area the your back where the needle will be inserted. This may reason some short stinging.

Step 2: insert the needle right into the spinal canal Next, a slender, hollow needle is put into your spinal canal to draw out part cerebrospinal liquid for testing. The comparison dye is put into the spinal canal v the hole needle. Girlfriend will probably only feel pressure, despite some world feel a sharp stinging sensation. Let your doctor recognize if you are feeling pain.

Step 3: take X-ray pictures after the dye is injected you will certainly lie on your stomach with a pillow under your abdomen. The table may be tilted to relocate the contrast dye v your spinal canal and also X-ray images will be taken of your back. In ~ this suggest you should remain an extremely still so the the x-ray photos will no be blurred. Many patients will have actually a CT scan following the myelogram.

What wake up after the test?

After the x-rays and CT scans have actually been taken, you will be taken ago to a room and observed for 4-8 hrs with your head raised. Do NOT lie flat. Once the medical professional releases you, a friend or household member might drive girlfriend home.

Discharge instructions

stay in bed because that 24 hrs after your myelogram. Carry out not
lie flat. Instead, elevate the head of her bed 30 levels or usage 2 pillows. You may get up for short periods (e.g., because that the bathroom and also meals). Drink several fluids because that 18 hours, at the very least 8 ounces every 2 hours while awake. If possible, drink caffeinated beverages, which create a diuretic effect, causing raised urination and also thus remove the dye used throughout the myelogram. If her headache, nausea, or vomiting persists after 48 hours of bed rest, call your doctor. In general, you can resume normal tasks the next day.

What space the risks?

A CT scan is safe for many people, though pregnant women shouldn’t have one.

Be sure to phone call the medical professional if you space pregnant or have actually a background of allergy (to medications, vault iodine injections, or shellfish), diabetes, asthma, a love condition, kidney problems, or thyroid conditions. Likewise tell them if you take any kind of blood thinning medicine such as aspirin, Plavix, or Coumadin.

About 5% to 10% that patients suffer side results caused by the dye that include headache, nausea, and also vomiting. However, these side impacts should not be severe.

How execute I obtain the check results?

The radiologist will certainly promptly review your images and also communicate straight with her referring doctor, who in turn will discuss the results with you.

Sources & links

If you have more questions around this diagnostic test, call the medical professional that bespeak the check or visit RadiologyInfo.org.


contrast agent: a liquid (usually iodine or gadolinium) the is injected into your human body to make certain tissues show up plainly during diagnostic imaging (angiography, CT, myelogram, MRI).

iodine: a non metallic element used in comparison agent that renders vessels and also tissues present up on diagnostic imaging (angiogram, CT, myelogram).

CT (computed tomography) scan: a form of diagnostic X-ray the views anatomical structures of the brain and spine, particularly bones, soft tissues and also vessels. Images are perceived in "slices," similar to one MRI.

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myelogram: a diagnostic test in i m sorry a distinct dye is injected into the space around the spinal cord leading to the nerves to present up white on one X-ray.

radiologist: a doctor who specializes in analysis X-rays and also other diagnostic scans.

X-ray: electromagnetic radiation used in diagnostic imaging to check out shadows that tissue density in the body, additionally called roentgenogram.

updated: 4.2018 reviewed by: Staff, Mayfield Imaging Services, Cincinnati, Ohio