A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is done to test the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) around the spinal cord and brain. By placing a thin hollow needle between the bones of the lower back, a small sample of fluid can be taken for testing.
There are many diagnoses that can be made from a lumbar puncture. They include:
You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees drawn up and your head bent down. You must remain as still as you can during the procedure. You will receive a shot to numb the puncture site. You will feel pressure as the doctor inserts the needle. Let the doctor or nurse know if you feel any pain. Breathe deeply and slowly. The CSF will come out through the needle drop by drop. Once enough fluid has been taken for testing, the needle will be pulled out. A band-aid may be placed over the site. The entire test will last about 20 to 30 minutes.
As with any procedure, there are risks. Some of the risks include:
- Pain - Patients may feel a poke as the doctor inserts the needle into the back. Numbing drugs are used to lessen the pain. Once the needle is in, the pain is often mild and goes away.
- Headache - This may occur after the test. It is often mild and goes away on its own. Let your nurse know if your headache is severe.
- Bleeding - When the doctor inserts the needle, there is a risk of bleeding at the site. If this happens, the bleeding is often minimal or stops on its own. Rarely, bleeding can occur into the spinal cord.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 11/06/2012
Copyright © 11/06/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6345
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