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A myelogram is a diagnostic imaging test done by a radiologist. It uses a contrast dye and X-rays or computed tomography (CT) to look for problems in the spinal canal. Problems can develop in the spinal cord, nerve roots, and other tissues. This test is also called myelography.
The contrast dye is injected into the spinal column before the procedure. The contrast dye appears on an X-ray screen allowing the radiologist to see the spinal cord, subarachnoid space, and other nearby structures more clearly than with standard X-rays of the spine.
The radiologist will also use a CT scan when doing a myelogram. A CT or CAT scan is a diagnostic imaging test that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of the body. These images, called slices, show detailed images of the spinal canal. CT scans show more details than standard X-rays.
A myelogram may be done to assess the spinal cord, subarachnoid space, or other structures for changes or abnormalities. It may be used when another type of exam, such as a standard X-ray, does not give clear answers about the cause of back or spine problems. Myelograms may be used to evaluate many diseases, including, but not limited to:
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a myelogram.
You may want to ask your doctor about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your radiation exposure, such as previous CT scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period.
If you are pregnant or think you may be, tell your health care provider. Radiation exposure to the fetus may cause birth defects.
There is a risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast dye. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have ever had a reaction to any contrast dye, or have any kidney problems.
Because the contrast is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which also surrounds the brain, there is a small risk of seizure after the injection. Some medications may place you at greater risk for seizure and you may be asked to stop taking these for 48 hours before and after the study. Make sure your doctor has a list of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) and all herbs, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking.
Because this procedure involves a lumbar puncture, these potential complications may occur:
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
A myelogram may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. The procedure takes about an hour, but may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
Generally, a myelogram follows this process:
You may experience discomfort during the myelogram. The radiologist will use all possible comfort measures and complete the procedure as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.
You need to sit or lay down for several hours after the procedure to reduce your risk of developing a CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) leak.
You will be asked to drink extra fluids to rehydrate after the procedure. This helps to wash out the contrast dye and it helps your body replace the spinal fluid that was removed. It also reduces the chance of developing a headache.
A nurse will monitor your vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respirations) frequently after the test. You will be given pain medicine if you develop a headache.
When you have completed the recovery period, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home.
Once you are at home, tell your doctor of any changes including:
If the headaches persist for more than 24 hours after the procedure, or are worse when you change positions, you should contact your doctor.
You may be instructed to limit your activity for 24 hours after the procedure. Generally, if you don’t have any problems, you may return to your normal diet and activities.
Your doctor may give you additional or alternative instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
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