The spinal cord is protected by the spine as it carries messages to and from the brain. However, even though the spinal cord is protected by surrounding bones and ligaments, it can still become damaged.

Doctors use a technique called a myelography to identify damage to the spinal cord. This procedure can help locate herniated discs, tumors, or any damaged spinal nerve roots.

During a myelography, the patient is placed on an x-ray table on his side or stomach. A local anesthetic is injected into the skin to numb the area where the contrast material, or dye, will be injected. A longer needle is then used to inject the special dye into the spinal canal. Following injection of the dye, x-ray films are taken as the x-ray table tilts up and down, allowing the dye to flow through the patient’s spinal canal.

The doctor will view the x-ray film, or myelogram, to determine the location and type of the damage to the spinal cord, and then determine appropriate therapy.

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