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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Myelogram
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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 caused by arthritis.
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 for:
This test may help find the cause of pain that can't 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 your doctor gives you about eating and drinking.
If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your test. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
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 doesn't get in the way of the test.) You will be given a gown to wear during the test.
You will have a spinal tap 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. 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.
After the 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.
You will feel a quick sting from a small needle that has medicine to numb the skin on your back. You will also 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 test.
The dye may make you feel warm and flushed and have 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.
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 disc, 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.
Current as of:
November 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineHoward Schaff MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Current as of: November 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Howard Schaff MD - Diagnostic Radiology
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