What is a myelogram?
A myelogram is an imaging test that uses a real-time form of X-ray called fluoroscopy by inserting a spinal needle into the spinal canal and injecting contrast material into the area around the spinal cord and nerve roots (subarachnoid space).
Radiography is an unplanned medical test that helps doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions. X-ray images produce images of the inside of the body by exposing a part of the body to a small dose of ionizing radiation. X-rays are the oldest and most widely used form of medical imaging.
The myelogram may be done in conjunction with other tests of the spine, such as routine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scan, and spinal X-rays. In general, if any of these tests do not fully explain the cause of your symptoms, or if your doctor needs additional information about the bones in your spine before deciding on your treatment, he or she may recommend a myelogram and CT scan. the myelogram.
Why might I need a myelogram?
Myelograms may be done to evaluate the spinal cord, subarachnoid space, or other structures for changes or abnormalities. It is used when another type of test, such as a standard X-ray, does not give clear answers about the cause of back or spinal problems. Myelograms can be used to diagnose many diseases:
- Herniated discs (discs that project and weight on nerves and/or the spinal cord)
- Spinal cord or brain tumors
- Infection and/or inflammation of tissues around the spinal cord and brain
- Spinal stenosis (degeneration and inflammation of the bones and tissues throughout the spinal cord that make the canal narrow)
- Ankylosing spondylitis (a condition that attacks the spine, making the bones to grow together)
- Bone spurs
- Arthritic discs
- Cysts (benign capsules that may be charged with fluid or solid matter)
- Tearing away or injury of spinal nerve roots
- Arachnoiditis (inflammation of a delicate membrane that covers the brain.)
There may be other reasons why your healthcare provider may recommend a myelogram.
Benefits of myelogram
- Myelography is relatively safe and painless
- When a contrast material is injected into the subarachnoid space around the nerve roots and spinal cord, it allows the radiologist to see the appearance of different areas of the spine, which are usually invisible or indistinguishable on X-rays.
- There is no radiation to the patient’s body after the X-ray examination
- X-rays generally have no side effects when used within the diagnostic range required for this procedure
Risk factors for myelogram
Since this is an invasive procedure where you have to inject contrast material through a needle into your spine, there are some risks:
- Spinal fluid infection (meningitis)
- A spinal headache
- Bleeding around your spine
- An allergic reaction to the contrast material
Procedure of myelogram
Preparation for the procedure
- Do not eat or drink anything until 6 hours before the test. Medicines can be taken with a small amount of water.
- Patients must arrive 60 minutes before the scheduled exam time
- The technician will verify your identity and the requested proof
- You will have the opportunity to speak with the radiologist about planning this procedure and give your consent
- Bring any X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs of your spine or brain to the hospital
During the procedure
- You will be asked to turn into a hospital gown
- The test table will ask you to lie on your stomach or your side
- Monitors are placed on you to measure your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level. You may also be provided with fluids in an IV.
- An anesthetic is injected into the skin behind you
- A second needle is used to inject the color from the x-rays into the spine. A sample of your cerebrospinal fluid may also be removed for testing.
- The test table is folded in different ways to distribute the color throughout its column
- X-rays are taken of your back
After the procedure
- If you are already a hospital patient or are scheduled to be admitted to the hospital as soon as your procedure arrives: You will be hospitalized after completing your study. You will return to your hospital room from the radiology department and the nursing staff will make sure you are well.
- If you are having your myelogram as a patient: You will be in the hospital for two hours after the procedure is completed. The hospital staff will help you to make sure you are well. You will go home after the trial period.
- Arrange for someone to drive you home. You cannot drive home alone. The radiologist will send a report to your doctor after studying your X-rays. It is a good idea to ask your doctor for the test results.
Results of myelogram
How long it takes to get results depends on where you complete your scans. The radiology doctor looks at the images and writes a report. Images can be on film or CD.
Ask if you should wait to take pictures and report back to you, or if they will be sent to your doctor.
Your doctor should discuss the report with you. You must make an appointment to do this.
When to contact the doctor
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:
- Headache for 2 days or more
- Permanent back pain or tingling in the groin or legs
- Or your provider told you something to report based on your health status