A 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.
Bleeding, which can compress the nerve roots or spinal cord
Pain or abnormal burning, pricking, or tingling sensations in legs
Allergic reaction to anesthetic
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
of the head may be ordered
before the procedure. These scans make 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 medication is injected with a needle.
Description of Procedure
You will likely 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. A sample of CSF will be taken through the needle.
During the procedure, the pressure of the CSF may be noted. 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.
Immediately After Procedure
You will lie down for 10-60 minutes. In most cases, you will be able to go home after the procedure. If you have a severe headache or need immediate treatment, you may need to stay longer.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30-45 minutes from setup to completion
Will It Hurt?
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:
Drink extra fluids for the next 24 hours.
Rest and remain quiet for at least 24 hours.
Follow your doctor's
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Severe headache or headache lasting for more than 24 hours
Nausea or vomiting
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, bleeding, or discharge from the lumbar puncture site
Numbness, tingling, or pain in your lower back or legs
Weakness in your lower legs or difficulty walking
Problems with urination or defecation
A stiff neck
Pain that you cannot control with the medications you've been given
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Torpy J, Lynm C, et al. Lumbar puncture. JAMA. 2006;296(16):2050.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 2/13/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.