What you should know
- Myelogram, also called myelography (mie-LOG-rah-fe), is an x-ray procedure to examine the spinal canal. This is done using a contrast material (dye). The spinal canal contains the spinal cord, which carries messages between your brain and your body, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear fluid that also flows around the brain. The spine is formed of vertebrae (small bones) that are stacked on one another with soft discs in between bones. Myelogram is usually done to diagnose a slipped disc, tumor, or problems causing a block in CSF flow. It may be used to check the spine after surgery or in patients with a slow wearing away of the bones. This procedure may not be done if you bleed easily.
- During a myelogram, dye is injected into the spinal canal and x-ray pictures of the spine are taken. The dye may be made of oil or water. Dye made of water can be absorbed by the body. This helps caregivers see the structures in your spine, such as nerves, spinal cord, discs, and bones better. The dye is usually put in the lower back area. Less often, the dye is given in the neck area of the spine.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
Having a myelogram may put you at risk of having other problems. You may have a bad headache, neck or back pain, nausea (upset stomach), and vomiting (throwing up). There may be bleeding, infection, injury to a disk in your spine, or spinal fluid may leak from the site. Your nerves or spinal cord may be damaged. The dye used during the procedure may cause an allergy. It may reach the brain and cause seizures or brain problems. The dye may also damage the kidneys. Patients who have blood disorders or who are taking certain medicines are at a higher risk for problems. Talk with your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your procedure, medicine, or care.
Before your procedure:
- Tell your caregiver if you have any allergies. These include allergies to food, dye, cleansing solution, such as iodine, or any numbing medicine.
- Tell your caregiver if you have a blood disorder or have had a bleeding problem in the past. It is also important that your caregiver knows if you have other diseases. These diseases may include diabetes (high blood sugar level), blood vessel disease, or heart, liver, or kidney problems.
- Tell your caregiver if you are taking any medicine that may make you more likely to bleed. These medicines may include aspirin, clot busters, or blood thinners. Tell your caregiver also if you are taking an anti-depressant. This is medicine given to decrease or stop the symptoms of depression or to treat other behavior problems.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- If you are female, tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
- Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- You may need to have different blood and urine tests. Imaging tests, such as x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be done. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
Day of your procedure:
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes on the day of your procedure or surgery.
- Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
What will happen:
- You will be taken to the room where the procedure will be done. There may be large x-ray machines and other equipment inside the room. X-rays with a TV screen will be used to guide caregivers during the procedure. You will be moved onto an x-ray bed or table. Depending on where your caregiver will inject the dye, you may be asked to lie on your back, side, or stomach, or to sit up. Your caregiver will clean the area of your skin where the needle will be inserted. You may be given one or more shots of numbing medicine.
- A needle will be inserted between the bones of the spine and into the spinal canal. Dye will be injected when the needle has entered the canal. The table where you lie will be tilted so the dye can move over the spinal area with the problem. A series of x-rays will then be quickly taken. You will be moved into different positions while the x-ray pictures are taken. When the procedure is finished, the dye will be removed if it is made with oil. The injection site will then be covered with a bandage or surgical tape.
After your procedure:
You may need to lie flat in bed or with your head slightly raised, depending on the type of dye used. This may last for 12 to 24 hours or until the dye is completely absorbed by your body. Caregivers will keep a close watch on you. When caregivers see that you are OK, you may be allowed to go home. If caregivers want you to stay in the hospital, you will be taken back to your hospital room. You may need to drink more liquids than usual after the procedure, or you may need fluids through the vein (IV).
This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.
Contact a caregiver if
- You cannot make it to your procedure appointment on time.
- You have a skin infection or a wound near the area where the procedure will be done.
- Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your procedure.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You have a fever.
- Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.