Spinal tap, also known as lumbar puncture, is a procedure where a needle is placed between lumbar bones to remove cerebrospinal fluid for testing. This procedure can be used to help rule out infections around the brain and spinal cord, as well as to detect tumors and autoimmune diseases. This procedure may also be used to inject dye for x-ray tests, inject medications or relieve pressure in the head.
Since spinal tap involves two important areas, the brain and the spinal cord, it’s important to know the possible risk factors. Spinal tap or lumbar puncture risk factors can include:
Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor before the spinal tap procedure.
While there is little needed to prepare for a spinal tap, it’s important to be aware of your do’s and don’ts before the procedure.
Your doctor can give specific instructions about any medications you may be taking so make sure to discuss your medications before the procedure.
During the spinal tap procedure, your doctor will have you lie on your side and may have you bring your knees toward your chest. Once the area on your back is sterile, you will be given a local anesthetic. A needle will then be placed in between two vertebrae into the spinal canal. While a spinal tap is not painful, you may feel pressure or discomfort or get a headache. Once the fluid is drawn, the opening will be covered with a bandage.
After your spinal tap procedure, it’s important not to perform any rigorous exercise for a day or two after the procedure. Drink plenty of fluids, around 2 quarts, after your spinal tap as well as the next day.
If you are experiencing a fever, a headache that will not go away or see unusual fluid where the spinal tap was performed, call your doctor immediately.