Lumbar puncture is a test of the fluid around your spine and brain. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It provides protection and nutrition to the brain and nerve cells. CSF also helps to remove waste products from the brain.
The test is done to look for abnormalities in the spinal fluid. It may be done to help diagnose conditions such as:
The procedure may also be done to:
If you are planning to have a lumbar puncture, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. Complications may include:
Your doctor may order a CT scan of the head before the procedure. A CT scan makes detailed pictures of your brain.
Just before the procedure, your doctor will clean the site where the needle will be inserted.
Local anesthesia will be used most often. It numbs just a small area. The medicine is injected with a needle.
You will lie on your side with your knees drawn up in front. Some punctures may be done while you sit on the edge of the bed. A needle will be inserted into the spinal canal through the lower back. The doctor will take a sample of CSF through the needle.
During the procedure, your doctor will make a note of the pressure of the CSF. If you have discomfort, the needle may need to be repositioned. It may take several minutes to collect the fluid needed. The needle will be removed. A dressing will be placed over the puncture.
You will lie down for 10-15 minutes. In most cases you will be able to go home after the procedure. If you have a severe headache or require immediate treatment, you may need to stay longer.
About 30-45 minutes from setup to completion
Discomfort is minimal to moderate. The anesthetic will sting when first injected.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
About Kids Health
Adams RD, Victor M, et al. Disturbances of cerebrospinal fluid and its circulation, including hydrocephalus and meningeal reactions. In: Adams RD, Victor M, Ropper AH. Pinciples of neurology. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill; 1997:623-641.
Lumbar puncture (LP). DynaMed website. Available at https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated May 31, 2012. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Torpy J, Lynm C, Glass R. Lumbar puncture. JAMA. 2006;296(16):2050. Available at: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=203803. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Lumbar puncture test. The University of Iowa website. Available at: http://www.uihealthcare.org/2column.aspx?id=236317. Accessed May 20, 2013.
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