Myelogram

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A myelogram uses fluoroscopy 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.

During the test, a contrast material is put injected into the subarachnoid space with a thin needle. The contrast material moves through the space so the nerve roots and spinal cord can be seen more clearly. Fluoroscopy images are taken before and after the contrast material is injected. A CT scan is done immediately after, while the contrast material is still in your body for further diagnostic results.

 

Need to Know

Nice to Know
  • If you take blood thinners, such as Coumadin, or other medications, your doctor may instruct you to stop taking your medication for a period of time before the procedure.
  • Inform your physician if you are pregnant.
  • Inform your physician of any allergies to contrast material
  • You will need a driver to bring you and take you home
  • You will be awake during the procedure lying on your stomach
  • You can go home after the procedure
  • You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure

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How Does it Work?

Using image-guidance from fluoroscopy (X-rays that show motion inside your body in real-time) and CT, your doctor will place a long needle into the spine and inject contrast material.  Imaging will then be taken of your spine to determine the possible cause of your pain.

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What Will Happen During the Exam?

When you arrive for your procedure a clinical staff member will greet you and you will be brought into an exam room. Your doctor will greet you, explain the procedure and get your consent.  You may ask any questions you may have at this time.

You will lie on your stomach on the exam table for this procedure. Your doctor will clean the area with an antiseptic solution and cover it with a surgical drape. Your doctor will then give you a shot of local anesthesia to numb the area

Once the area is numb, your doctor will use imaging to administer the injection of contrast material. You will not feel pain as the needle is placed but you may feel some discomfort as the contrast material is injected. This should only last a short moment and will most likely dissipate as soon as the injection is complete. You should tell your doctor if you feel any sharp pain.

You will then be taken to CT Scan to get more pictures of your spine taken.  You should rest for the remainder of the day but you may resume your normal activities the following day.

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How Should I Prepare?

There are things you can do to make your experience more comfortable, and many of these will depend on your individual preferences. You might like to keep a list of questions or — as you’re doing now — educate yourself about the procedure.

Some other things to keep in mind in planning for this procedure include:

  • You will need a driver to bring you and take you home
  • Your doctor may ask you to stop taking aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), or blood thinners (such as Coumadin or warfarin) for a time before the procedure

What Should I Bring?

On the day of your procedure you should:

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Avoid bringing jewelry or valuables
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What Are the Benefits and Risks?

The benefits of a myelogram could be:

  • To determine the cause of pain
  • Some risks you should be aware of include:
  • As with any procedure there is a slight risk of infection
  • Rarely, this procedure can cause a temporary increase in pain
  • Rarely there are reactions to the medication such as rash or hot flashes
  • There is a slight risk of nerve damage at the injection site
  • There is a slight risk of bleeding
  • There are risks associated with exposure to X-rays. You should discuss this with your physician.

Keep in mind that this information is general. Your radiologist is the best source of information about how these risks and benefits may apply to you.

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Where Can I Get This Exam?

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