What is a Myelogram?


While diagnostic imaging can help detect a variety of injuries and chronic medical conditions, problems with the back or spine can pose unique challenges. At Intermountain Medical Imaging, myelography is one of the tools we use to address this issue. A myelogram allows for imaging of neural structures inside the spinal canal at the same time as the bony structures. It provides a melding of the best part of CT and MRI in one exam. Conducted by our board-certified radiologists, who have been serving patients throughout the Boise, Idaho area for more than 20 years, a myelogram can play an important role in diagnosing the underlying causes of any pain, numbness, or loss of mobility you may be experiencing.

What Is a Myelogram and What Is it Used For?

A myelogram uses a contrast dye to illuminate the spinal cord, spinal nerve roots, blood vessels, and other structures within the spinal canal, allowing our radiologists to create images with increased clarity.

These images can help your doctor assess these areas and uncover changes or abnormalities that may be to blame for pain, limited movement, and other symptoms you are experiencing. A Myelogram can prove useful in evaluating the following types of conditions:

  • Herniated discs, which can press on nerves or the spinal cord;
  • Arthritic discs, which can become inflamed, causing pain and limited movement;
  • Benign cysts, which may be filled with fluid or other matter;
  • Spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the central portion of the spinal column which contains the spinal cord and nerves;
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that causes the bones of the spine to grow together;
  • Injuries and tears to the spinal nerve root;
  • Tumors of the spinal cord or brain and lesions due to disease or trauma;
  • Infections, which can cause the tissues surrounding the spine or brain to become swollen and inflamed.

What to Expect During a Myelogram

At Intermountain Medical Imaging, a myelogram is conducted on an outpatient basis. When you come in for the procedure, you will be greeted warmly by our staff and taken to a private room, where you will be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry that may get in the way. You will then be asked to lay face down on an examination table, while your lower back is cleaned and a local anesthetic is injected to numb any discomfort you may experience. Our radiologist will then insert a very thin needle into the spinal column under x-ray guidance. After this, the contrast dye will be injected.

You may experience some pressure from the needle or dye, but it is important to remain still during this process. Once the dye is injected and the needle is removed, the x-ray table will be slowly tilted, which allows for gravity to circulate the dye throughout the spinal canal. In some cases, you may be turned onto your side so that the area corresponding to your symptoms may be imaged as well.

Myelography can generally be performed in under an hour and that the patient may lay on their back for greater comfort while the images are being examined. Once the procedure is finished, you will be instructed to avoid strenuous activities or bending at the waist for at least 24 hours and to report symptoms such as ongoing headaches or fever immediately to your medical provider.

How to Prepare for a Myelogram

Before getting a myelogram, our team will provide you with some basic instructions regarding fasting and whether you should be drinking additional fluids the day before your myelogram. You will also be screened for your health history and any medications you may be taking. If you are pregnant or have a history of bleeding disorders, seizures, or allergies to dyes, you should let your doctor know immediately. Additional ways you can prepare for your myelogram include:

  • On the day of the procedure, plan on arriving a little early to complete consent forms;
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing;
  • Make sure you have someone who can drive you home after your myelogram is performed.

Reach Out to Intermountain Medical Imaging Today

If your doctor has recommended myelography as a way to better diagnose or treat your condition, our expert staff is happy to explain the procedure and answer any additional questions you have. Call our office or contact Intermountain Medical Imaging online.

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