A lumbar puncture is a procedure used to get a sample of spinal fluid from the area around your spine. It is also used to inject medicine or dye into the area. The term lumbar refers to the lower part of your back, between your tailbone and your ribs. A needle is put into your lower back between the bones of your spine to get the fluid sample or put in medicine or dye. This test is also called a spinal tap.
Spinal taps are safe. Most babies and young children do not like medical tests or needles and will cry during the test, but a spinal tap is no more painful than drawing blood.
This procedure is used to:
Often no preparation is needed unless your healthcare provider gives you special instructions.
A lumber puncture may be done in a clinic, surgery center, or hospital. It usually takes less than 20 minutes.
Before the procedure your child may be given medicine to help her relax, but she will usually be awake during the procedure. Then she will be given a local anesthetic with a small needle to numb the area. Sometimes, a numbing cream may also be used on the skin.
Older children may sit on the exam table and lean their head and shoulders forward onto a table or pillow. Babies and younger children will lie on one side with their knees bent and pulled up, with their chin touching their chest. Since your child must lie or sit very still, someone may need to hold her during the procedure. These positions allows the bones in your child's spine to spread far enough apart for the healthcare provider to insert a needle into the area where a sample of spinal fluid can be removed or medicine or dye can be injected.
Your child may need to lie flat for an hour or so after the test. If your child was given medicine to help her relax, she will be watched carefully until she is fully awake and alert. This may take up to a couple hours.
If your child was given dye, drinking a lot of fluids after the procedure helps her body get rid of the dye.
Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:
Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.