What Is a Lumbar Puncture?
puncture is a medical procedure that is usually performed in order to obtain a
sample of cerebrospinal fluid. The procedure is sometimes referred to as a
spinal tap. Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and
brain. Characteristics of the spinal fluid can indicate certain medical
conditions and infections.
What Does Lumbar Puncture Do?
puncture may be done for a few different reasons. It is used to diagnose
certain medical conditions, such as meningitis, myelitis, and demyelinating
diseases (such as multiple sclerosis). In addition, the procedure can also
diagnose cancers that affect the spinal cord and brain. Once obtained, the
fluid is tested for the presence of protein and glucose, as well as for red and
white blood cell levels. It is also analyzed to determine the presence of bacteria
or a virus.
Benefits from a Lumbar Puncture?
Anyone who suspects a medical condition such as meningitis or
encephalitis can benefit from a lumbar puncture. The quicker an accurate
diagnosis is made, the sooner appropriate treatment can be started. Some
conditions, such as bacterial meningitis, can be fatal if they are not treated
What Are the Side Effects of a Lumbar Puncture?
common side effect of a lumbar puncture is a headache (Harvard Medical School). Lying down for a few
hours after the procedure may reduce the risk of developing a headache.
Epidural blood patches can also be used to treat headaches after a lumbar
How Is a Lumbar Puncture Administered?
puncture is performed with a needle and syringe. A tube is attached to the
syringe in order to catch the spinal fluid.
The procedure usually takes about 45 minutes. The steps are:
- Positioning: The patient is
positioned on his or her side.
- Sterilization: The back is
then cleaned with an antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection.
- Numbing: The doctor numbs a
section of the back by injecting a local anesthetic. In most cases, a patient
can remain awake during the procedure.
- Fluid collection: After numbing,
a hollow needle is injected into the subarachnoid space. The patient may feel
some pressure at this point, but the procedure is usually not be painful. The cerebrospinal
fluid then drips through the needle and into a test tube for collection and analysis.
small amount of fluid is collected, the needle is removed and the wound is
bandaged. The patient is monitored for a short period for a headache or
What Are the Benefits of Lumbar Puncture?
benefit of a lumbar puncture is that it allows a medical professional to make
an accurate diagnosis of a medical condition or to rule a condition out. In
some instances, the procedure is also used to administer medication directly
into the spinal canal.
What Are the Risks of Lumbar Puncture?
to Mayo Clinic, a lumbar puncture is safe, but there are some risks involved
with the procedure, including:
- reaction to anesthesia
- nerve damage
- brain herniation (rare)
How Does a Patient Prepare for Lumbar Puncture?
prepare for a lumbar puncture, a medical history and exam is needed. Information
on the types of medications a patient is taking is important, especially blood
thinners since these can increase the risk of bleeding. A CT scan can also
determine if any swelling is present around the brain.
What Is the Outlook for Lumbar Puncture?
usually no serious complications associated with a lumbar puncture. The
procedure usually helps a physician to make a diagnosis or rule out a medical
What Are the Results of Lumbar Puncture?
fluid is removed, it is sent to the lab for analysis. The results may take a
few hours to a few days. The general appearance of the fluid is evaluated for
cloudiness, which may indicate an infection. Determining the protein count and
the presence of certain proteins can help a physician make a diagnosis. The
white blood cell count will also be measured. A high count is also another sign
of an infection. The results will also show whether any microorganisms were
present in the fluid.