MRI is the best tool for evaluation of the spinal cord, nerve roots and spinal lining (meninges). When a patient cannot undergo an MRI (metallic foreign body in the eye, certain types of implanted devices in the body), a procedure called myelography can be useful. During myelography contrast material (dye) is injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots, which helps radiologists diagnose various types of spinal conditions.

What happens during a myelogram?

You change into a gown and lie stomach down on a padded table. The radiologist uses a local anesthetic to numb the site of the injection on your back where a spinal needle is introduced. Through the spinal needle contrast material is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid around your spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. X-rays or CT are used to observe the flow of contrast material in real time. You may then be moved to a CT scanner where static images of the area of interest will be obtained.

There is a small risk of seizure after injection of contrast material into your cerebrospinal fluid, so we may ask you to stop taking any medications that might put you at higher risk for having a seizure. Be sure to tell your doctor about all your medications and if you are allergic to iodine or any contrast material. Your doctor may also ask you to stop taking blood thinners or other medications before your myelogram.

There are a few potential complications you should know about. Fortunately, they are uncommon and temporary.

  • When the spinal needle is introduced, a small amount of the cerebrospinal fluid may leak and cause a headache
  • You have a small risk of infection at the site of the injection
  • You may experience temporary numbness to your legs or lower back pain
  • You may bleed in the spinal canal

Since the radiologists at Radiology Associates of Richmond are experts at conducting these important diagnostic tests, the risk of an adverse reaction is very small.

You will not be able to drive for 24 hours after a myelogram, so bring someone who can drive you home.

After your procedure, radiologists at Radiology Associates of Richmond will interpret your test results and send your physician a report so he/she can discuss the results and next steps with you.