- What Is It?
- When Is It Performed?
- What to Expect
A lumbar puncture is usually not painful, as a patient is first given a local anesthetic. Most patients feel nothing except for the mild sting of the local anesthetic needle. It is possible to feel a pressure sensation as the needle goes in. The procedure is done in the hospital or outpatient facility by a doctor or nurse practitioner and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. After about one or two hours of monitoring, patients are able to leave the facility.
There are many nerves in the spinal canal and if one of them is touched by the needle, there might be a sharp pain, mostly in the leg. Some might feel a burning sensation or nerve twinges. The patient should inform the physician if they feel any undue pain.
What is a lumbar puncture?
A lumbar puncture (LP) is a procedure performed in the lumbar region of the spine to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the spinal cord and brain. The doctor inserts a needle in the space between two lumbar vertebrae to enter the spinal canal. A lumbar puncture is also called a spinal tap, spinal puncture, thecal puncture, or rachiocentesis.
Why is a lumbar puncture done?
The cerebrospinal fluid acts as a support of buoyancy for the brain and spinal cord, protecting them from injury. An analysis of CSF is done for diagnosing life-threating conditions such as:
- cancers and tumors of the brain or spinal cord
- bleeding around the brain
- inflammatory diseases such as meningitis, encephalitis and syphilis
- autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis
- increased fluid pressure from hydrocephalus
A lumbar puncture may be done for the following reasons:
- to collect cerebrospinal fluid for diagnostic purposes
- to measure the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid
- to administer anesthesia before a surgery
- to administer medications for certain conditions
- to inject dye for imaging and scanning
How is a lumbar puncture performed?
A lumbar puncture is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. Patients lie on their side in a curled or fetal position for a lumbar puncture. This extends the space between the lumbar vertebrae, making the target larger and procedure easier. An LP might also be done while sitting in a bent over position.
The doctor first cleans the area and injects a local anesthetic in the spot chosen for the LP. The LP is most commonly done between the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae. After the local anesthetic takes effect, they insert a long thin needle, which enters the spinal canal. They can then use the needle with a manometer to measure the spinal fluid pressure, or a syringe to withdraw fluid sample, or inject medication or dye.
It is important for the patient to remain still during the procedure, though the doctor might recommend a slight change of position. After the procedure, the puncture site is covered with a dressing or bandage. Immediately after the procedure, the patient will lie flat and stay still for about an hour or more.
How long is the recovery after a lumbar puncture?
A lumbar puncture usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. After about one or two hours of monitoring, patients are able to leave the facility, depending on underlying illness. There may be tenderness in the lower back and swelling at the needle site.
- lie down flat and rest as much as possible,
- move carefully when you have to,
- drink plenty of fluids,
- take painkillers as needed,
- avoid driving and strenuous activities.
What are the complications and risks of a lumbar puncture?
Rarely, other complications besides a headache might occur. This may depend on the age, health, or underlying medical condition of the individual. Some of the risks involved in a lumbar puncture are:
- persistent cerebrospinal fluid leak
- bleeding from the LP site
- infection at the LP site
- irritation of nerves or nerve roots
- brain herniation
It is advisable to return to the doctor if any of the following are experienced after a lumbar puncture:
- Fatal Drug Overdoses Among U.S. Seniors Have Tripled Since 2000
- CDC Will Test New Areas for Polio in Wastewater
- 'Virtual' Driver Program Could Make Driving Safer for Teens With ADHD
- Green Spaces Give Mental Boost, Even When White With Snow
- Two Veterinary Meds Show Promise Against a Tough Foe: Bed Bugs
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How painful is a lumbar puncture? 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 CancerCancers that form from brain tissue are called primary brain tumors. Brain tumors may be malignant (brain cancer) or benign. Certain risk factors, such as working in an oil refinery, as a chemist, or embalmer, increase the likelihood of developing brain cancer. Symptoms include headaches, weakness, seizures, difficulty walking, blurry vision, nausea,vomiting, and changes in speech, memory, or personality. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Brain Cancer: Tumor Signs, Symptoms, and TreatmentBrain cancer, types of which include primary or secondary cancer, involves invasive brain tumors including gliomas and glioblastomas. Learn the brain cancer survival rate, treatment options including chemotherapy, and the different brain tumor grades. Find out how the right treatment plan can fight cancerous brain tissue.
Is MS Contagious? (Multiple Sclerosis)Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a degenerative disease of the covering around the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS). Researchers and doctors don't know the exact cause, but many theorize that it may be due to environmental triggers, an autoimmune disease, and viruses (infections).
Symptoms of MS include vision changes, paralysis, vertigo, heat intolerance, slurred speech, sexual dysfunction, and urinary incontinence (the inability to urinate).
There's no vaccine or cure for MS, but the progression and symptoms of the disease can be treated.
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) Symptoms and TreatmentsMultiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms vary from person to person, and can last for days to months without periods of remission. Symptoms of MS include sexual problems and problems with the bowel, bladder, eyes, muscles, speech, swallowing, brain, and nervous system. The early symptoms and signs of multiple sclerosis usually start between age 20 and 40. MS in children, teens, and those over age 40 is rare. Treatment options for multiple sclerosis vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms. Medications may be prescribed to manage MS symptoms.
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.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and PregnancyMultiple sclerosis or MS is a central nervous system disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath (the protective coating around nerves). Symptoms of MS include pain, sexual problems, fatigue, numbness and tingling, emotional changes, and depression.
Women who are pregnant and have multiple sclerosis may have more difficulty carrying a pregnancy. Multiple sclerosis does not affect ability to conceive, and does not seem to affect fertility. MS symptoms during pregnancy may stay the same or get better; however, they may worsen after giving birth. Pregnancy decreases the number of relapses, but flares increase in the first 3-6 months after delivery. Pregnant women with MS may carrying a pregnancy more difficult to tell when labor starts, and there is an increased need to use forceps or vacuum to assist with delivery or b7 C-section (Cesarean birth) increases.
Some treatment MS drugs may be safe to use during pregnancy; however, some drugs should not be taken, for example, baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), or solifenacin succinate (VESIcare), and most disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).
Talk with your healthcare team about vitamins, supplements, and medications that you are taking if you are pregnant and have MS.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Early Warning Signs and TypesMultiple sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as an immune-mediated inflammatory process involving different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) at various points in time. Early warning signs and symptoms of MS in children, teens, and adults are similar; however, children and teens with pediatric also may have seizures and a complete lack of energy. Adults with MS do not have these signs and symptoms. Other signs and symptoms of MS include inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis), changes in vision, Wiping or having tissues around the eye and moving the eye may be painful, and double vision. There are four types of MS, relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), secondary progressive MS (SPMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and progressive relapsing MD (PRMS).
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.
Syphilis in WomenSyphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a spiral-shaped type of bacteria known as a spirochete. There are three stages of syphilis with distinct symptoms. During first stage of syphilis, a painless ulcer known as a chancre forms. Irreversible organ damage can occur during the late stage of syphilis. Special blood tests are used to diagnose syphilis. Syphilis infection is treated with penicillin. Condom use can often prevent syphilis.
Syphilis PictureA sexually transmitted disease caused by Treponema pallidum, a microscopic organism called a spirochete. See a picture of Syphilis and learn more about the health topic.