Thumbnail image of: Spinal Cord and Vertebrae: Illustration


What is a myelogram?

A myelogram is a series of X-rays taken after your healthcare provider injects a dye into your spinal column. Sometimes a CT scan is done after the myelogram. A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the spinal cord and nerves around it.

When is it used?

The bones of your spine protect your spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of your back. This bundle of nerves is protected by the bones of the spine and spinal fluid. Disks are rubbery cushions that act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine. A myelogram may be done to check for:

  • Blockage of the flow of spinal fluid
  • Problems with disks in the spine
  • Bone spurs in the spine
  • Tumors or other growths in the spine or spinal cord
  • Infection
  • Blood vessel problems

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and a ride home after the procedure.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies. Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for this scan.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Empty your bladder and bowel before the test. Sometimes your healthcare provider will want you to take a laxative or an enema.
  • Follow any instructions your healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

Before the test you may be given medicine to help you relax, but you will be awake during the test. You may be given a local anesthetic to numb the area where the needle will be inserted.

Your healthcare provider will inject the dye at the base of your spine. You will feel a brief sting when this happens. You will lie face down on a tilting table under the X-ray machine. Tilting the table allows control of the flow of the dye in your body.

Your provider may insert a needle into the space around the spine to get a sample of fluid for lab tests.

The test takes 30 to 60 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure you may stay in a recovery area for up to 4 hours.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have an allergic reaction to the dye.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • The nerves in your spinal cord may be damaged.
  • You may have a headache for 2 or 3 days after the procedure that is worse when you lay flat.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-29
Last reviewed: 2014-07-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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