A myelogram is a test to check problems with your spinal canal. This includes the spinal cord, nerve roots, and spinal lining. The canal is a tunnel-like structure in your spine that surrounds your spinal cord. A myelogram uses a dye injected into the spinal canal with the guidance of imaging. The imaging is typically done by a real-time form of X-ray (called fluoroscopy). Pictures are then taken of your spinal canal.

How do I get ready for a myelogram?

  • Don’t eat the morning of the test. But you can drink water or other clear fluids.

  • If told to, stop taking medicines before the test.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home.

What to tell the person doing your study

Tell the healthcare provider if you:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Have any bleeding problems

  • Take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or other medicines. These include aspirin, certain antipsychotic medicines, and antidepressants. You may be told to stop taking these 1 or more days before your test. 

  • Have had back surgery or low back pain

  • Have any allergies

What happens during a myelogram?

Woman lying face down on table under scanner. Health care provider wearing lead vest is tilting table and looking at monitor.
The exam table may be tilted during the X-ray.

  • You will change into a hospital gown.

  • Your lower back will be cleaned, covered with drapes, and injected with a numbing medicine.

  • Your healthcare provider will use X-rays (fluoroscopy) to guide a thin needle into your spinal canal space.

  • The healthcare provider may take out a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The provider will inject dye (contrast fluid) into your spinal canal.

  • The table will be tilted in various directions to help move the contrast dye to different areas of your spinal canal.

  • More X-rays will be taken.

  • If you need a CT test, it will follow the X-rays.

What happens after a myelogram?

  • Take it easy for the rest of the day, as advised.

  • Don't do any physical activity or bending for 1 to 2 days after the procedure, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Lie down with your head raised if you get a headache, or if directed to do so.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Your healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you at a follow-up appointment.

What are the risks of a myelogram?

  • Small risks of pain, bleeding or infection at the injection site or in or around the spinal canal

  • Headache

  • CSF leak that may need a blood patch or other treatments

  • Injury to a nerve or the spinal cord at the injection site

  • X-ray radiation exposure (generally believed to be low risk and safe)

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • A headache that lasts 2 days or more

  • Fever of 100.4 °F (38°C) or above, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Severe upset stomach or vomiting

  • Trouble urinating or having a bowel movement

  • Lasting pain in your back, or tingling in your groin or legs

  • Or anything else your provider told you to report based on your health condition

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