Lumbar Puncture (Spinal tap)
Lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is commonly performed to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnostic purposes. It can also be used to administer medication or to decrease spinal fluid pressure in patients.
What to Expect
- We’ll contact you prior to your appointment to review current medications, your medical history, and potential risks. We’ll also be happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
- Be sure to tell us if you are pregnant, nursing, or if there is a chance you may be pregnant.
- Contact your doctor before you stop taking any medication.
- If you have films, reports or CD-ROMs of any prior MRI, CT or X-rays, please bring them to the appointment.
- On the day of your exam, please arrive 15 minutes early to check in.
- Although complications are rare, we will review possible side effects and risks with you prior to your exam so you can ask questions and decide if this exam is right for you.
- Please arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.
- The technologist will help position you for the procedure. Typically, you will be asked to lie on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest. This helps open the spaces between your vertebrae and makes it easier for your doctor to insert the needle.
- Using a real-time form of X-ray called fluoroscopy for guidance, a radiologist with advanced training in spine injections will inject a local anesthetic into your lower back to numb the puncture site before the needle is inserted. The local anesthetic may sting briefly as it is injected.
- A thin, hollow needle will be inserted between the two lower vertebrae (lumbar region), through the spinal membrane (dura) and into the spinal canal. You may feel pressure in your back during this part of the procedure.
- Once the needle is in place, you may be asked to change your position slightly.
- The cerebrospinal fluid pressure will be measured, a small amount of fluid will be withdrawn, and the pressure will be measured again. If needed, a drug or substance will be injected.
- The needle will be removed, and the puncture site will be covered with a bandage.
- You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure.
- Your doctor may suggest lying down after the procedure.
- Plan to rest. Do not participate in strenuous activities the day of your procedure.
- Our staff will explain how and when you will receive your results.
- A few days after your exam, you will receive a patient satisfaction survey. We appreciate you sharing your feedback as this information to improve how we care for patients.
- Pre-register for your exam using our secure patient portal. First-time user? Please contact the location of your appointment and they will provide you with an access code.
- Call the center where you’re scheduled if you have any other questions or concerns.
- NOTE: This procedure is not performed in all of our centers. Please contact the location or region nearest you for more information or to schedule an appointment.