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Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)

Underlying Problem Requiring a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap): A patient might undergo a lumbar puncture, also frequently referred to as a \"spinal tap,\" for a number of reasons. Most commonly, a lumbar puncture is a diagnostic test that helps to determine if a patient is suffering from one or more of a number of possible illnesses. This is done through the collection and evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid will be analyzed for signs of meningitis, hydrocephalus, subarachnoid hemorrhage, or other conditions. In some cases, however, a lumbar puncture may be used as a treatment option for patients who needs to a release of intracranial pressure.


A patient undergoing a lumbar puncture will usually be placed on his or her side with the knees pulled up to the chest in the fetal position. If this is not possible, the patient may be in a seated position while bending forward and rounding the back. The doctor will feel the area manually to determine where the lumbar puncture should be placed. He or she will then inject a local anesthetic before inserting a needle between the lumbar vertebrae. Some of the spinal fluid will be collected through this needle. It will then be removed, and pressure will be applied to the point where the lumbar puncture took place.

Recovery from a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap):

Some patients will experience headaches and nausea after a lumbar puncture, and the doctor may suggest the use of analgesics, as well as to increase the amount of fluids ingested. It is possible that lying on his or her back for two hours after the procedure can reduce the likelihood of a patient experiencing a headache and nausea. He or she should rest and relax following the procedure and should follow any directions given by the healthcare team.

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