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What is a myelogram?


When magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is available, myelography is rarely if ever used. Still, MRI remains an alternative in combination with CT when MRI cannot be performed because the person has medical devices, such as a cardiac pacemaker, that may prevent him or her from undergoing MRI.

A myelogram is a special x-ray that requires an injection of dye into the spinal canal through a spinal tap to detect the rupture of a disc or other problems. In a normal myelogram, the dye will fill the spinal canal, as well as the nerve root sheaths, giving a revealing outline for an x-ray. In an abnormal myelogram, an absence of dye occurs in a specific area called a filling defect, and it indicates that the nerve root or spinal cord is pinched or compressed.

The myelogram has some discomfort, requires an injection, and has a greater possibility of unwanted side effects, such as a painful headache.  Some experts now recommend a MRI of the lower spine first. Then, if the diagnosis is not clear, they may perform a myelogram.  A CT scan may be combined with a myelogram to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis, especially if a small piece of disc has broken off and is pressing on a nerve away from its root between the vertebrae.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.