Myelography

Myelography is an X-ray procedure that uses a dye to look at your spine (vertebrae) and spinal cord. This procedure is performed by a doctor who specializes in X-ray procedures (radiologist). Myelography may show problems with the vertebrae, disks, spinal cord, spinal nerves, or surrounding structures.

LET YOUR CAREGIVER KNOW ABOUT:

  • Allergies to food or medicine.

  • Medicine taken, including herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medicines, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medicines.

  • History of bleeding problems or blood clots.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems, including diabetes and kidney problems.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

The potential risks of myelography include:

  • Infection of the spinal fluid (meningitis).

  • Headache.

  • Fluid leak.

  • Allergic reaction to the dye.

  • Bleeding into the spinal column from the needle insertion.

  • Spinal fluid leak from the needle insertion.

  • Seizures (rare).

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

  • Follow your caregiver's instructions on what medicines to take and what you may eat.

  • Remove all jewelry.

PROCEDURE

  • You may be asked to lie on your stomach for the myelography. You may also be asked to change positions.

  • Medicine may be given to you to help you relax.

  • You may receive additional medicine or intravenous (IV) fluids.

  • The skin on your back will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.

  • Numbing medicine will be injected into the area that was cleaned.

  • Using an X-ray for guidance, a needle will be inserted between your vertebrae.

  • A small amount of spinal fluid may be removed for laboratory testing.

  • A dye (contrast material) will be injected through the needle. The dye mixes with the spinal fluid and helps the structures be more visible on X-ray. The table you are lying on may be tilted in different directions to help the dye move up the spinal column so different areas can be seen.

  • The needle will be taken out and a bandage is placed over the needle site.

  • Your blood pressure, temperature, heartbeat (pulse), and breathing will be routinely checked.

  • If you develop a headache, a sick feeling (nausea), or throw up (vomit) during myelography, medicine will be available to help.

AFTER THE PROCEDURE

Your recovery will be assessed and monitored. If you are an outpatient, you will need to lie flat for a few hours before being discharged. This reduces the risk of a headache. You will be discharged home when you are awake, stable, and doing well. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. During your ride home, you should lie down on the car seat with your head supported with 1 pillow.