Myelography Animation

Myelography is a test that produces a myelogram. The results can help diagnose a problem affecting your spine’s nerves or the spinal cord. The procedure combines injection of a contrast dye and spinal imaging using x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The contrast dye, when combined with imaging, illuminates spaces surrounding the nerves and spinal cord, and helps detect nerve and/or cord compression, injury, or damage. The radiologist performs the test, interprets the results, and prepares a report for your physician.
myelogram CT of the lumbar spineMyelography of the lumbar spine (low back) using CT scanning. By Hellerhoff [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons.

Why Your Physician May Order Myelography

During your physical and neurological examinations, your physician evaluates your symptoms and signs (eg, are you having difficulty walking?). A myelogram may be recommended to reveal a problem not detected by other tests. It may also be used to confirm a diagnosis of a spinal condition, such as:

Before Myelography: Give Accurate Information to the Radiologist

In advance of your test, the radiologist or a member of his or her medical staff will ask you about your allergies, existing conditions, and medications. The same questions may be included in paperwork you complete before the test, including a consent form.

Be sure to tell the radiologist about:

  • Any allergies (eg, shellfish, iodine)
  • Existing kidney problems
  • Seizures
  • Being pregnant (or possibly pregnant)
  • All medications, especially: Blood thinners (eg, warfarin, heparin, aspirin); Metformin, or other diabetic medicines; and, antidepressant medications you take.

Potential Risks in Myelography

Like other medical procedures, there are potential risks associated with myelography. To make sure you have all the facts about your specific risks, talk with your physician or a member of the radiologist’s staff.

Potential risks include:

  • Spinal infection
  • Headache
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bleeding

Your physician and/or the radiological facility provides specific instructions about when you can eat, drink, and take medications. It is very important to follow the instructions your physician and/or radiologist provides.

What to Expect During the Myelogram

At the radiology facility, you are asked to change into a gown. You are positioned on the x-ray, CT scan, or MRI bed laying on your stomach or side.  General anesthesia is not necessary—you are awake throughout the test.

A local anesthetic (numbing medicine) is injected into your skin near the injection site. Next, the contrast dye is injected into your spine. The needle is removed, and a small bandage is applied to cover skin over the injection site. Then the x-rays, CT scans, or MRI images are taken.

After the myelography procedure, you are moved into a recovery area where you continue to lie down. The medical staff monitors your vital signs—breathing, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. The radiologist discharges you from the facility when he or she determines you are ready.

Instructions for your care at home may include:

  • Laying down for the remainder of the day
  • What you may eat and drink
  • When to resume medications
  • Potential post-test symptoms, and whom to contact

Myelography Results

The radiologist ensures your physician receives the test results in a timely manner. Your physician discusses the results of the myelogram with you, and he or she is available to answer all your questions and concerns about the test and what it tells you about your spinal condition. From there, the conversation may turn to your treatment options.

Updated on: 01/12/19
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