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What you need to know about myelography:

Myelography is a procedure that uses an x-ray to examine your spinal canal. Contrast liquid is used to help healthcare providers see your nerves, bones, or spinal cord more clearly.

Vertebral Column

How to prepare for this procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare for the procedure. You may need blood, urine, or other tests before this procedure. Arrange to have someone drive you home after your procedure.
  • Tell your provider about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicine, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.
  • Tell your provider about any allergies you have. Contrast liquid will be used to help healthcare providers see your nerves, bones, or spinal cord more clearly. Tell your provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. You may be given medicine to help prevent a reaction to the liquid.
  • If you are a woman, tell your provider if you know or think you might be pregnant. The x-rays used for this procedure can be harmful to an unborn baby.
  • Your provider may tell you to drink extra liquids the day before the procedure. He or she will tell you if it is okay to drink liquid on the day of the procedure. You may be told not to eat for a few hours before the procedure.

What will happen during the procedure:

  • Local anesthesia will be put into the skin on your back. It is used to numb the area. Depending on where your healthcare provider will inject the needle, you will sit or lie on an x-ray table.
  • Your provider will insert a needle between the bones of your spine and into your spinal canal. He or she will use an x-ray with a monitor to guide the needle. He or she will inject liquid to see your nerves, bones, or spinal cord more clearly. You may feel warm after the liquid is injected. The table will be tilted so the liquid can move through your spinal canal.
  • You will be moved into several positions, and x-rays will be taken. After the procedure is done, the needle will be removed. The injection site will be covered with a bandage or surgical tape.

What to expect after the procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest for several hours. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Tell providers if you have a headache, back or neck pain, or tingling, numbness, or weakness below your waist. You may be able to go home when provider see you are okay.

  • You may need to drink more liquids than usual, or you may get IV fluids. Liquids will help flush the contrast out of your body.
  • A neurologic exam will check how your pupils react to light. Healthcare providers may also check your memory, hand grasp, foot or leg movement, and balance.
  • You may develop a headache during the first few hours after your procedure. The headache may be mild to severe and may get worse when you sit up or stand. Your healthcare provider will monitor the location where the needle was inserted for possible leaking fluid. Fluid loss from your spinal column may increase your risk for a headache.

Risks of myelography:

Myelography may increase your risk for a headache, neck or back pain, nausea, or vomiting. You may have bleeding, or spinal fluid may leak from the injection site. The procedure may cause injury to a disc, nerves, or your spinal cord. The liquid used during the procedure may cause an allergy, seizures, or brain problems. The liquid may also damage your kidneys.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have numbness, tingling, or weakness anywhere below your waist.

Call your healthcare provider or specialist if:

  • You have a stiff neck or trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have a headache or nausea that does not go away with rest and medicine.
  • You have severe neck or back pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have bleeding or a discharge coming from where the needle was put into your back.
  • You feel anxious or irritable.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Drink liquids as directed:

Liquids will help flush the contrast out of your body. Ask how much liquid to drink each day, and which liquids to drink. Some foods, such as soup and fruit, also count as liquid.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.