What is Lumbar Puncture?

Inserting a needle in the lower back region (lumbar area) to draw out some cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is called lumbar puncture. The procedure is also called spinal tap.

Cerebrospinal fluid is a special liquid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. It acts as a shock absorber, preventing these vital organs from injury.

Why Is It Done?

  • The fluid is collected and send to the lab for analysis. Many infectious diseases of the brain or meninges may get detected. Apart from this, carcinomas may also be diagnosed from its analysis.
  • Sometimes, anesthetic medications may also be inserted into the fluid via lumbar puncture to numb the nerves present in the region.
  • It may be done to reduce pressure in the brain in certain conditions.
  • Its analysis may detect hemorrhages in the brain or cord area.
  • Inflammatory conditions like multiple sclerosis etc. may also be diagnosed.

Common Complaints After the Procedure

The technique should be done by skilled hands only. It requires both precision and expertise.

1) As the fluid is withdrawn from the lumbar region, you are likely to get a headache after the procedure. This may be associated with some nausea.

Managing Headache

Do not sit. It is better to lie down to let your brain get a better supply of blood.
Drink lots of fluid to make up the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) loss. You may take caffeine in soda or other beverages. Avoid alcohol.

2) Pain or discomfort in the back is common. This may radiate to the legs. You may take an acetaminophen to relieve back ache. Also, take bed rest.

3) Rarely, brain herniation may occur due to sudden change in CSF pressure.

When to Go to an Emergency?

  • If you develop fever, with or without chills, after the procedure. This could be a sign of infection.
  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Severe pain in the lower back.
  • Any discharge or bleeding from the puncture site.
  • Numbness or weakness in any region of your legs.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Management of Post Lumbar Puncture Headache

  1. angela wilson

    But this was an injection to relieve pain. I have moderate canal stenosis. L4-5 secondary to disc bulge and hypertrophied facet and ligamentum flavum l5-s1 disc desiccation with moderate disc spacing narrowing posterior disc bulge with osteophyte off inferior endplate of l5 endplate etc.

    Reply