A myelogram procedure is a diagnostic test, performed by a physician, that looks for problems in the spinal cord along with surrounding nerves and tissues. Myelograms, also called myelographies, use contrast dye to perform a comprehensive analysis, states John Hopkins Medicine. The contrast dye injected into the affected area before the procedure produces pictures on a CT scan.
Physicians generally prescribe myelograms when initial X-rays ordered for patients are not clear, or do not produce a satisfactory image, according Johns Hopkins Medicine. Using a contrast dye and computer technology, myelograms provide a more complex picture of the spine than X-rays alone. Doctors often order these tests to identify certain spinal cord conditions. Myelograms look for structural abnormalities, along with many diseases. They might detect relatively benign conditions, such as herniated discs, but they can also detect bone spurs and degenerative disc diseases. They highlight more serious causes of back pain, such as tumors in the spinal cord or brain and show cysts, spinal stenosis and any inflammation or infection in or near the spinal cord.
As with other medical procedures, myelograms carry some risks. They operate using radiation, which may present problems with increased exposure. Fluid leaks, bleeding from the spinal canal and infection from the needle injection are other possible complications from these procedures.