Spine CT Myelogram – Benefits and Risks

Benefits

  • Myelography is relatively safe and painless.
  • When a contrast material is injected into the subarachnoid space surrounding the nerve roots and spinal cord, it allows the radiologist to view outlines of the different areas of the spine that usually are not visible or distinguishable on x-rays.
  • No radiation remains in a patient's body after an x-ray examination.
  • X-rays usually have no side effects when used in the diagnostic range necessary for this procedure.

Risks

  • There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
  • Although it is uncommon, headache associated with the needle puncture is a risk. The headache, when it occurs following Myelography, usually begins when the patient begins to sit upright or stand. One of the common features of this type of headache is that it is improved when the patient lays flat. When present, the headache usually begins within two to three days after the procedure. Rest while laying on one's back and increased fluid intake readily relieve mild headaches, but more severe headaches may call for medication. In rare circumstances some patients may continue to experience headaches, which may necessitate a special, but simple, procedure to help with the headache. This procedure is known as an epidural blood patch.
  • Adverse reactions to the injection of contrast material during a Myelogram are infrequent and usually mild in nature, including itching, rash, sneezing, nausea or anxiety. The development of hives or wheezing is rare, but may require treatment with medication. More severe reactions involving the heart or lungs are rare.
  • Other rare complications of Myelography include nerve injury from the spinal needle and bleeding around the nerve roots in the spinal canal. In addition, the meninges covering the spinal cord may become inflamed or infected. Seizures are a very uncommon complication of Myelography. There is a very small risk that pressure changes within the spinal canal caused by the introduction of a needle below the site of an obstruction will block the flow of fluid within the subarachnoid space of the spinal canal, which can make urgent surgery necessary.
  • Women should always inform their physician or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.

Watch the CT - What to Expect Video.