Mercy Regional Health Center
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Myelogram

What is a myelogram?
What happens during the exam?
How should I prepare for the procedure?
What should I wear?
What happens after the test?
What are the risks?
How long does the exam take?
Will I be able to feel the exam?
When is this exam given?


What is a myelogram?
A myelogram is a procedure that involves placing a needle into the spinal canal and injecting iodine containing contrast agent into the sac that contains the spinal cord and nerve roots, and then taking images.

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What happens during the exam?
A needle is placed in the lower back (lumbar region) or occasionally in the neck (cervical region). The area for needle placement is localized using imaging guidance. The radiologist will administer local anesthesia. Since the needle tip is in a location near the nerve roots, you may briefly experience symptoms such as pain or an electric shock sensation down the leg; if this happens, the needle position will be adjusted.

A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Contrast is injected, multiple x-ray images are obtained, and the needle is removed. A series of x-ray pictures is obtained. A CT scan is routinely performed after the myelogram to provide additional information. You will be awake during the procedure and are free to ask questions.

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How should I prepare for the procedure?

  • Certain medications should not be taken because they lower the seizure threshold. If you are on any such medications, please consult your physician before the procedure. If you are taking any anti-depressant medications (e.g., phenothiazines, MAO-inhibitors, tricyclic anti-depressants), Zyban (for smoking cessation), anti-psychotic medications, CNS stimulants, muscle relaxants or any other medication that lowers the seizure threshold, please inform your doctor well before the procedure so that these medications can be stopped at least 48 hours before the procedure and resumed no earlier than 24 hours after the procedure.
  • A nurse will call you before the procedure to check whether you are on any of these medications and to give you instructions for the procedure. Your physician will decide if it is alright for you to stop these medications and how long they should be withheld.
  • You cannot eat or drink ANYTHING after midnight the night before your test. This means no breakfast the morning of your exam.
  • Other than those outlined above, you should take your medications on the day of the procedure. You should not have any caffeine or alcohol on the day of the procedure.

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What should I wear?
Most patients are asked to wear a hospital gown. You will also need to remove all jewelry.

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What happens after the test?
You will be placed on bed rest with your head elevated for 24 hours to decrease the risk of headache. You will be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids over the day of the procedure. Mild soreness at the site of the lumbar puncture is expected and usually lasts only hours or, on rare occasions, one to three days.

You will be observed for several hours after the contrast is injected and then discharged if there are no immediate complications. Please have someone to accompany you on your travel home. Headache is not an uncommon complication and may occur immediately after the procedure or within hours and can last from hours (usually) to days.

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What are the risks?
Whenever a needle is placed through the skin, there is a risk of introducing bacteria that can cause infection. Sterile technique and sterile equipment are used to minimize the possibility of introducing infection. The risk of infection as a complication is very low. If you experience continued swelling, redness, or fever and chills after the procedure, be sure to contact your doctor for an evaluation.

There may also be some bleeding and soreness at the site of needle placement. This is not unusual and normally lasts just a few hours, but may last as long as a few days.

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How long does the exam take?
After you've checked in, the actual procedure lasts about one hour.

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Will I be able to feel the exam?
Since the needle tip is in a location near the nerve roots, you may briefly experience symptoms such as pain or an electric shock sensation down the leg; if this happens, the needle position will be adjusted.

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When is this exam given?
A myelogram provides detailed information about the spinal cord and the nerve roots. This information is valuable in helping your doctor make a diagnosis or plan the appropriate treatment to help relieve your symptoms.

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