What is it?

Myelography is an X-ray procedure involving injection of contrast material (dye) into the space around the spinal cord and nerve roots to observe the location of spinal cord injuries, cysts and tumors. It utilizes real-time X-rays called fluoroscopy

What is it for?

A myelogram may find the cause of pain undetected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). It can find problems in the spinal canal, spinal cord and nerve roots. It can evaluate many conditions including:

  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Cysts
  • Spinal cord or brain tumors
  • Infection and inflammation of spinal cord and brain tissues
  • Spinal stenosis, degeneration and swelling of the bones and tissue around the spinal cord
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative discs
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that causes bones to join together improperly

How to prepare

  • You will be given instructions about what to eat and drink
  • Notify your health care provider about any allergies especially if you have ever had a reaction to X-ray contrast dye
  • Communicate with your health care provider about your health history and medications you are taking
  • Plan to have someone drive you home
  • You may need to stop certain medications


  • Radiation exposure
  • An allergic reaction to the X-ray contrast dye
  • Infection
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Lower back pain
  • Spinal canal bleeding
  • Spinal fluid leakage

What happens during?

  • Your back will be cleaned by an antiseptic
  • The injection site will be numbed
  • The needle is placed through the numbed skin where the spinal fluid is located. You may feel some pressure when the needle is inserted.
  • Some spinal fluid is removed from the spinal canal. Contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal through the needle.
  • The X-ray table is moved so gravity moves the contrast dye to various areas of your spinal cord. You will be held in place by a harness or brace. More contrast dye is injected through the needle.
  • The needle is removed and X-rays are taken

What happens after?

  • You will be in a lying position to reduce the risk of spinal fluid leak
  • You will be asked to drink fluids to rehydrate
  • Your vital signs will be checked frequently
  • You will be able to go home after a recovery period
  • You will be asked to limit your activities for 24 hours. After 24 hours, you should be able to resume normal activities and eating

Side effects

Contact your health care provider immediately if you are at home and have:

  • Tingling or numbness in your legs
  • Blood, drainage or pain at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Headaches
  • Inability to urinate

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