A lumbar puncture (LP) is also called a spinal tap. It involves the insertion of a hollow needle into the space (called subarachnoid space) around the spinal cord for collecting a small amount of fluid (called the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF).
The procedure is done in the lower back, and the fluid is sent for laboratory analysis. A lumbar puncture may also be done to inject a medication into the subarachnoid space.
The CSF is a clear, watery fluid that is present around the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system or CNS). The fluid is responsible for various functions, such as protecting the CNS against shock injuries, maintaining optimum pressure in the CNS, providing nutrients to the brain and spinal cord, and carrying away waste products.
Examining the CSF through a lumbar puncture helps diagnose various conditions affecting the CNS, such as
- infections (meningitis),
- multiple sclerosis, and
It also helps in delivering medicines directly to the CNS in a concentrated form without any side effects to other parts of the body.
A lumbar puncture is generally done as an outpatient procedure. You will be able to go home the same day of the procedure. You will, however, need someone to drive you home. The procedure generally takes 45 minutes to complete.
Before the procedure, your doctor may
- Order your blood tests.
- Get a computed tomography (CT) scan done to rule out hydrocephalus (excessive collection of fluid in and around the brain).
- Ask you about any long-term health conditions.
- Ask you about any allergies, especially allergies to drugs or anesthetic medications.
- Tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight before your procedure.
- Ask you about any medications (including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] and blood thinners) that you are on. They will also tell you which medications you may take in the morning before the procedure.
- Discuss your concerns regarding the procedure.
- Ask you to wear a hospital gown before the procedure.
During the procedure:
- An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your hand or arm to administer a sedative to make you comfortable during the procedure. The procedure generally requires moderate sedation, although some patients may need general anesthesia.
- You will lie on your sides on the procedure table.
- The medical team may connect you to monitors to check your vitals (electrocardiography [ECG] and oxygen saturation).
- The doctor will clean the area with an antiseptic solution and apply surgical drapes.
- They will inject a local anesthetic (numbing medicine) at the site where the lumbar puncture is to be done.
- The doctor will insert the lumbar puncture needle through the skin between two lumbar spine bones using fluoroscopy (image guidance) into the spinal canal.
- You may be asked to change your position slightly once the needle is in the subarachnoid space.
- Your doctor may remove a small amount of CSF or inject medication depending on the reason for the lumbar puncture through a tube connected to the needle.
- The needle is withdrawn after the procedure.
- Pressure may be applied to prevent bleeding.
- A bandage is applied (stitches are not needed).
- The IV line is removed.
- You may be asked to lie on your back or side for a few hours after the procedure.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Is a Lumbar Puncture Procedure Done Related Articles
MS (Multiple Sclerosis) vs. ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Differences and SimilaritiesALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) are both diseases of the nervous system (neurodegenerative). ALS is a disease in which the nerve cells in the body are attacked by the immune system, although it's not considered an autoimmune disease by some scientists. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the insulated covering of the nerves (myelin sheath) in the CNS (central nervous system) degenerate, or deteriorate.
Scientists don't know the exact cause of either problem. However, they have discovered that mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme were associated with some cases of familial ALS. Scientists also theorize that multiple sclerosis may be caused by infection or vitamin D deficiency. ALS occurs between 50-70 years of age (the average age of occurrence ALS is 55), and mostly affects men. While MS occurs between 20-60 years of age, and mostly affects women. About 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and an average of 5,000 new diagnoses per year (that's about 15 new cases per week). Worldwide, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, with about 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year (that's about 200 new diagnoses per week).
Some of the signs and symptoms of both diseases include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, problems walking, fatigue, slurred speech, and problems swallowing. ALS signs and symptoms that are different from MS include problems holding the head upright, clumsiness, muscle cramps and twitches, problems holding objects, and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. MS signs and symptoms that are different from ALS include vision problems, vertigo and balance problems, sexual problems, memory problems, depression, mood swings, and digestive problems.
There is no cure for either disease, however the prognosis and life expectancy are different. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal condition, while ALS progresses rapidly and leads to death.
Baclofen PumpThe medication baclofen treats symptoms of spasticity in patient with MS. Side effects of baclofen include sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, headache, and confusion.
Botox to Treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS)Botulinum toxin is a muscle-relaxing medication used to decrease spasticity related to multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions. Botulinum toxin is derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are three types of botulinum toxin available for therapeutic use.
Brain HemorrhageA brain hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused when an artery bursts in the brain, causing localized bleeding in the surrounding tissue. Causes of brain hemorrhage include aneurysm, liver disease, brain tumor, head trauma, high blood pressure, and blood vessel abnormalities. Symptoms include sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, tingling, numbness, vision changes, loss of consciousness, and loss of fine motor skills. Treatment depends upon the cause, location, and size of the brain hemorrhage.
Brain Tumor: Warning Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatments, and CureA brain tumor can be either non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), primary, or secondary. Common symptoms of a primary brain tumor are headaches, seizures, memory problems, personality changes, and nausea and vomiting. Causes and risk factors include age, gender, family history, and exposure to chemicals. Treatment is depends upon the tumor type, grade, and location.
What Were Your First Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Tumor?The symptoms of a tumor depend on how big it is and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumors may not cause any symptoms at first. Eventually, the tumor may put pressure on the brain that may cause the signs and symptoms like severe headaches, seizures, irritability, dizziness, personality change and more.
Fungal MeningitisFungal meningitis is a rare disease that is not contagious. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment involves administering high doses of antifungal medications.
MeningitisMeningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. Treatment of meningitis depends upon the cause of the infection and may include antibiotics or antiviral medications.
Meningitis QuizWhat is meningitis and what causes it? Take our Meningitis Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of this potentially life-threatening disease.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage results in symptoms that may include numbness, weakness, vertigo, paralysis, and involuntary muscle contractions. Different forms of MS can follow variable courses from relatively benign to life-threatening. MS is treated with disease-modifying therapies. Some MS symptoms can be treated with medications.
Making an MS Friendly HomeAdults with multiple sclerosis may be at risk for injuries, hazards, and falling at home. Some simple home modifications can protect your health and safety and facilitate fall prevention. Reduce your risk of accidents and prevent hazards with these tips.
MS QuizMultiple Sclerosis is a debilitating neurological condition. Take the MS Quiz to test your knowledge of the causes, symptoms, risks and treatments.
MS SlideshowMS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves of the central nervous system. Learn about multiple sclerosis (MS) causes, symptoms, and treatment, along with diagnosis and life expectancy.
Famous Faces of MSLearn about celebrities, such as Montel Williams and Jack Osbourne, who are living with multiple sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms PictureSymptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in duration. See a picture of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms and learn more about the health topic.
Multiple Sclerosis: Signs of Multiple Sclerosis RelapseSigns of an MS relapse can vary in type and intensity. This WebMD slideshow lists some of the more common relapse symptoms.
Who Is at High Risk for Multiple Sclerosis?The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is not known. But scientists believe that a combination of various factors may put an individual at a higher risk for MS. These factors include immunologic factors, environmental factors, low vitamin D levels, smoking, obesity, Epstein-Barr virus, genetics, and the female gender.