What is a myelogram?

A myelogram is a special spinal X-ray examination used to help determine the cause of pain, numbness and/or weakness in the back, arms or legs. During the test, a contrast medium (also referred to as contrast material) is injected into the spinal canal under X-ray guidance to provide an outline of the spinal cord and nerve roots. A series of X-ray films are taken.

Please note: The myelogram test may be performed along with other tests such as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Test, Computed Tomography (CT) and regular spinal X-ray films.

Notify your physician

Inform your physician of any medications you are currently taking, including non-prescription drugs. Some medications may have potentially adverse reactions with the contrast agent used during a myelogram.

The following list of medications may need to be discontinued 48 hours prior to the test, and 24 hours after:

  • Pheothiazine derivatives
  • Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants
  • Psychoactive drugs described as analeptics, major tranquilizers or anti-psychotic drugs.

Note: Do not discontinue any medication without conferring with your primary physician and/or physician requesting this study.

If you have any of the following conditions, please notify your physician:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple myeloma, pheochromocytoma, homozygous sickle cell disease or known thyroid disorder
  • Allergies to any drugs or foods
  • Known reactions to previous injection of contrast materials used for X-ray procedures

Before the test

No lab work is required before the myelogram unless you have a history of bleeding problems or a condition such as liver disease or kidney failure.

Before the test, please follow these guidelines:

  • Do NOT take dipyridamole (Persantine) or warfarin (Coumadin) within 72 hours prior to the test. These medications are often referred to as blood thinning pills.
  • Do NOT take aspirin or any products containing aspirin.
  • DO take your other medications as determined by your physician, especially any medications for high blood pressure.
If you have Diabetes
  • Take your usual dose of insulin and eat a light breakfast before 8:00 a.m.
  • When you arrive for your test, please be sure to remind the physician that you have diabetes.
Eating and drinking

Drink only clear liquids for breakfast the day of your myelogram. Clear liquids include:

  • Clear broth
  • Tea
  • Strained fruit juices
  • Strained vegetable soup
  • Black coffee
  • Plain gelatin
  • Tomato juice
  • Ginger ale

Take nothing by mouth after breakfast.

On the day of your test

Please make arrangements for transportation, as you should not drive immediately after the myelogram.

Please do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards.

You will meet with the radiologist. In addition to providing verbal consent, you will discuss:

  • Steps of the procedure and any questions you may have regarding the procedure.
  • Risks and benefits anticipated in your case.

During the test

The radiologist and technologist will be in the room with you.

  • Premedication, although rarely needed, may make you feel drowsy and relaxed.
  • You will wear a hospital gown during the examination.
  • You will be asked to lie on your abdomen or side during the procedure.
  • After cleaning your back with an antiseptic, a local anesthetic will be administered.
  • When the area is numb, a contrast material is injected into the spinal canal. This sometimes causes pressure.
  • During the X-rays, you may be asked to assume different positions, or tilt your head downward. You may also be tilted downward by the table, which may be uncomfortable.
  • You may feel some discomfort or have a minor headache.
  • The needle is removed once the contrast material has been injected.

After the test

You will be monitored for four hours. At that time, a nurse will discuss post-myelogram instructions with you. You will be provided with a written form of these instructions-- please follow these at home. A radiologist will evaluate you before you are released.

During the first 24 hours after the myelogram:

Notify your physician immediately if you experience any tremors or fainting.

  • Remain flat on your back as much as possible.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Notify your physician if you experience any leakage of fluid from the puncture site.

© Copyright 1995-2015 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 8/20/2011...#4892