Diagnostic quality of radiographs and adverse reactions associated wtih the use of metrizamide and iohexol as contrast agents in lumbar myelography were compared in a prospective randomized double blind study in 350 patients at seven centers. The contrast media were administered in comparable volumes at a concentration of 180 mg I per ml. Overall quality of radiographic visualization was graded good or excellent in 95% of 175 metrizamide studies and in 98% of 175 iohexol studies. Ninety-three patients examined using metrizamide (53%) and 130 patients examined using iohexol (74%) experienced no discomfort during or after myelography. Postmyelographic headache was associated with 38% of metrizamide examinations and 21% of iohexol examinations. Nausea and vomiting were also more common with metrizamide. Five patients examined using metrizamide (3%) experienced transient confusion and disorientation following lumbar myelography. No such reactions were observed following iohexol myelography.