It’s fairly common for symptoms associated with spine-related problems to be vague enough to make it difficult to quickly provide an accurate diagnosis. Fortunately, spine specialists have several diagnostic tools and resources they can use to identify the likely source of your discomfort. One of these resources is a spinal myelography. Let’s take a closer look at this specialized imaging technique.
A myelography is performed as part of a real-time X-ray known as a fluoroscopy. A contrast dye injection is used to allow internal structures in and around the spine to be clearly viewed. The procedure can be used to identify specific nerve roots responsible for your discomfort, look closely at the spinal cord, or confirm everything is functioning as expected following a surgical procedure such as extreme lateral interbody fusion. Santa Monica patients may also have spinal myelographies performed to evaluate or diagnose the following issues:
• Herniated discs
• Compressed (“pinched”) nerve roots
• Disc/nerve degeneration
• Spinal growths (tumors)
• Inflammation that may be aggravating symptoms
When a myelography is performed, contrast dye is injected into the cavity that houses the spinal cord (spinal canal). The dye makes certain structures appear clear when the X-ray is done in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a standard X-ray. Real-time images produced from the fluoroscope will be viewed and recorded to get a better idea of what’s going on with spinal nerves, the spinal cord, or various supporting structures.
A spinal myelography offers unique benefits and presents certain risks as well, although this is true with most diagnostic procedures. On the plus side, a live X-ray performed with a contrast dye may be a better choice for a patient with spinal hardware that makes it difficult or impossible to perform an MRI scan. A myelography can also help your Santa Monica spine surgeon confirm spinal hardware is in the correct location and it’s functioning properly. Additional benefits associated with a spinal myelography include:
• It’s widely considered to be a safe and pain-free procedure
• It produces views of the spine and its structures that aren’t possible with other imaging methods
• There are normally no issues with radiation from the X-ray remaining in the body
• There are typically no side effects of the radiation when this procedure is performed for diagnostic purposes
The contrast dye required for a spinal myelography sometimes makes patients nauseous or gives them headaches. Other potential but rare risks associated with this diagnostic procedure include:
• Cancer and other possible radiation side effects*
• Issues with clotting in the epidural space where the dye is injected, which could result in a spinal fluid leak, although an epidural patch can correct this problem
• Nerve-related injuries or bleeding
• Adverse reactions to the contrast dye
*Steps are typically taken to reduce radiation exposure as much as possible.
The diagnostic benefits associated with a spinal myelography far outweigh the potential risks, especially since serious complications are rare. The results can also be used to fine-tune your treatment plan in a way that boosts your odds of enjoying meaningful relief and a better quality of life.
Tests such as spinal myelographies can be extremely useful in diagnosing a wide variety of spine-related issues, and doctors often use the results to guide their recommendations about treatment. If you’re experiencing prolonged, sudden, or severe pain in the neck or back, you should reach out to the spinal health experts at The Spine Institute. Our pioneering physicians and innovative methods of diagnosis and treatment put us at the forefront of the spinal health industry. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.