Myelogram Risks

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Overview of the Procedure

During a myelogram, a needle is inserted in the spinal canal so that contrast material can be injected. Once this material has been injected, it will highlight the spinal cord, meninges, and spinal nerve roots. The radiologist or technician will then take several x-ray pictures and may reposition the patient several times to get the best views. After the procedure, patients are observed for 1 to 2 hours and then discharged. Preparation for the procedure includes increasing fluid intake and stopping medications such as antidepressants, blood thinners, and drugs that are used to treat diabetes. Women who may be pregnant should inform their doctor or x-ray technician before going through the test.

Risk of Spinal Headache

Because a needle is inserted into the spinal canal during this test, there is a risk of developing a headache after the test has been completed. These headaches usually develop 2 to 3 days after the test and may be relieved if the patient lies down. Sitting upright or standing often make these headaches worse. Mild headaches may be treated with increased fluid intake and bed rest. Severe headaches may require medical attention.

Risk of CSF Leakage

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is contained within the spinal canal. Because a needle is inserted into the spinal canal during a myelogram, there is a small risk that CSF can leak from the spinal canal after the test. If CSF leakage continues, a simple procedure may be used to stop leakage of the fluid from the puncture site.

Risk of Allergic Reaction

If a patient has never had an imaging study with contrast, they will not know if they are allergic to the contrast material that is used. After a myelogram, a patient may experience an allergic reaction to the contrast material. Symptoms of this type of reaction can include anxiety, sneezing, itching, rash, and nausea. Hives and wheezing are more severe symptoms and may need to be treated with allergy medication.

Risk of Nerve Injury, Bleeding, and Inflammation

There is a small risk that nerve injury, bleeding of the nerves, and inflammation of the meninges can occur after a myelogram. If symptoms are experienced, patients should check with their physicians to discuss treatment or possible progression of these problems.


RadiologyInfo. “Myelography.” Accessed 30 June 2009.