Myelography: what it is, what it is for and how it is done


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Myelography is a diagnostic examination that is performed with the aim of evaluating the spinal cord. It is done by applying contrast at the site and performing an x0ray or performing a computed tomography afterwards.

Therefore, through this examination, it is possible to evaluate the progression of the disease or to make a diagnosis of other conditions that may have not been verified in other imaging tests such as spinal stenosis, herniated disc or ankylosing spondylitis.

What is myelography for?

The purpose of myelography is usually when radiography is not sufficient for the diagnosis of the condition. Therefore, the doctor may recommend performance of this examination with the objective of investigating, diagnosing or evaluating the progression of diseases such as:

  • Herniated disc
  • Lesions in the nerves of the spinal cord
  • Inflammation of the nerves that cover the spinal cord
  • Spinal susthesis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Tumor or brain cysts
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

In addition, myelography can also be recommended by the doctor to investigate the attack of infections that may affect the spinal cord.

How it is done

Before undergoing myelography, the patient should drink plenty of liquid foods two days prior to the examination day and fast for about 3 hours before the examination. Moreover, it also important that the person notifies the doctor if he/she has any contrast allergy of anaesthesia, whether they have a history of seizures of if they use anticoagulants or if they are pregnant. They may also be told to remove any piercings and jewellery.

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The person is then placed in a comfortable position so that they are relaxed. It is also ideal to disinfect the affected site so that the injection and anaesthesia can be applied afterwards. After disinfection, the doctor will apply the anaesthetic in the lumbar region using a thin needle. With another needle, they will remove a small amount of spinal fluid and inject the same amount of contrast. The patient may feel a slight pressure on the head at that moment.

After that, imaging is performed, which can either radiography or computed tomography, so as to evaluate how the contrast passes through the spinal cord and if it reaches the nerves correctly. Thus, any alteration observed in the way the contrast scatters may be useful in the diagnosis or evaluation of the disease progression.

After the examination, it is recommended that the patient stays 2 to 3 hours in the hospital so that they may recover from the local anaesthesia. They should also take enough fluids to favour the elimination of the contrast and stay at rest for about 24 hours.

Possible side effects

The side effects of myelography are usually related to contrast, and some people may experience headaches, back or legs. However these changes are considered normal and may disappear after a few days. However, when the pain does not pass after 24 hours or when it is accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting or difficulty urinating, it is important to report these changes to the doctor.

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Cornelius A.

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