Your doctor has ordered a myelogram for
you. This handout explains what will
happen before, during, and after the test.
Your nurse will go over this sheet with you.
Please ask questions. If you have questions
or concerns after you go home, please call
the numbers listed at the end of this handout.
Please let your doctor or nurse know if:
you are allergic to Novocain / Lidocaine,
you have had previous back surgery, or if
you are currently taking a blood thinner.
What Is a Myelogram?
A myelogram is an x-ray that is done after
dye (contrast) is injected into the spinal
canal to show the spinal cord and nerves and
their relationship to the bones of your neck
or back. The dye is used to make these
structures appear more clearly on the x-rays.
After the dye has been injected and x-rays
are taken, a CT scan (CAT scan) will be
done to give more information to your
This study can help to determine the source
of symptoms, such as pain, numbness,
tingling, or weakness in your arms, legs,
back, or neck. This procedure is often done
for patients who cannot have an MRI or for
patients in whom an MRI didn’t identify a
source of symptoms.
Before the Procedure
1. Please arrange to have someone
drive you home.
2. Bring any x-rays, CT scans, or
MRI exam of your spine that have
been taken elsewhere.
3. Our examinations are scheduled for
the morning. Do not eat any solid
food after midnight. You may have
clear liquids from the time you wake
up until you arrive for the exam.
Clear liquids are liquids you can see
through (bouillon, soda, apple juice,
tea, etc.). You will be asked to drink
fluids after the procedure to help you
remove the x-ray dye from your body
through your urine. You may also
take your regular medicines before
4. Bring along any medicines you will
need to take during the day including
5. If you have diabetes and are taking
insulin, please contact your diabetes
health care team for possible insulin
adjustment. If you do not take
insulin, take your usual medicine.
6. Before the exam, your doctor may
order blood tests to check your
kidney function and your body’s
ability to control bleeding, depending
on your medical history and current
medications. This will allow the
doctors in Radiology to know that it
is safe to perform the procedure.
During the Procedure
Myelograms are done in Radiology here at
UWHC. You will be asked to lie on your
stomach or side on an x-ray table. Your
back will be washed and a local anesthetic
(lidocaine) will be injected into the skin at
the base of your spine or neck. A needle
will be placed in your spinal canal, either in
your low back or neck, in order to inject the
contrast into the spinal canalThe contrast is
water soluble (mixes with water) and will be
absorbed by your body and removed through
your urine. You will feel pressure when the
needle is inserted, but should not feel sharp
pain. If you feel pain, tell the doctor and
more anesthetic can be given. Your doctor
may decide to send some spinal fluid for
tests. This can be easily done. The needle is
then removed. A bandage will be placed
over the needle site.
The x-ray table will be tilted to move the
solution along your spinal canal. The
progress will be viewed by a fluoroscope, a
type of TV screen using X-rays. When the
contrast flows to the affected area, an x-ray
will be taken.
The myelogram lasts about 30-45 minutes.
When it is over, you will be taken by cart to
the CT room where a CT scan will be taken.
You may have to wait another 30-60
minutes. This depends on the demand for
the CT scanner at the time.
After the Procedure
Inpatients: When you are back in your bed,
keep your head up on an average size pillow
for 4 hours. Drink about 1 glass of fluid per
hour if you are allowed (if you are not
currently drinking fluids, the doctors in
Radiology will talk with your clinical team
to make sure you get adequate IV fluids).
Spend this time in bed and limit walking,
lifting, or strenuous activity.
Outpatients: Most patients are able to go
home within 1-2 hours after the procedure.
You must have someone drive you home.
Once you are home, lie flat with your head
on a small pillow for at least 4 hours. Limit
your activity for the rest of the day. Drink
about 1 glass of fluid per hour. You may
resume your regular diet.
Your Care after the Exam
1. Drink plenty of fluids (one 8 oz.
glass of liquid each hour). This
helps your body rid itself of the
contrast. You may wish to bring
your own water bottle along. Feel
free to ask for water and juice while
you wait in the x-ray area. You may
eat solid food unless you are told to
2. Limit your activity for the rest of
the day. Stay in bed except for
meals and toilet needs.
3. 36 hours after the exam, you may
resume your normal routine. The
bandage may be removed from the
4. If you get a headache after the test,
lie down for 12-24 hours. The
headache will not go away even with
pain medicine while you are upright.
After 12 hours, you may try to
resume light activities.
5. In some cases, the headache may last
for up to 36 hours after the exam. If
this happens, start drinking more
liquids and return to lying flat. You
will know the headache is from the
myelogram if it goes away when you
lie down and returns right away with
sitting up. If it does not go away
within 36 hours, call the
Neuroradiology Clinical Program
Coordinator. You may take
acetaminophen or other pain
medicine that you normally use. The
headache usually stops in 48 hours.
When to Call the Doctor
ξ A severe headache that is not relieved
with aspirin or acetaminophen
ξ A stiff neck
ξ Nausea or vomiting
If you are concerned or have questions,
please let your doctor that ordered the test
know. If you have questions about the
procedure once you are home, call the
Neuroradiology Clinical Program
Coordinator at (608) 890-7291. After hours
or weekends, please call the hospital paging
operator (608) 262-2122 and ask to be
connected to the Neuroradiology Fellow on-
If you live out of the area, please call: 1-800-
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4371.