Spinal Tap is a procedure in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the lumbar area is collected for analysis.
Spinal Tap is also called Lumbar Puncture. It is usually done for diagnostic purposes but sometimes also for therapeutic purposes. Diagnosis of disorders of nervous system, or cancer of brain or spinal cord can be detected using this procedure.
Diagnosis of infections like meningitis, encephalitis
Diagnosis of disorders of the central nervous system like multiple sclerosis
Diagnosis of bleeding around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage)
Finding the cause for cancers of brain and spinal cord
Measuring the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid
Injecting anesthetic medications
Injecting chemotherapeutic drugs
Injecting radioactive substances for diagnostic images of flow of cerebrospinal fluid
Your doctor will recommend
To stop any blood thinning medications or any other drugs, a few days before the procedure.
CT scan of brain, to rule out any abnormal swelling in or around the brain.
To empty the bladder before the procedure.
The procedure lasts up to 40 to 60 minutes. During the procedure,
You will be asked to lie down on one side with knees drawn up to the chest or sit leaning forward with head and chest bent over the knees.
The lumbar area on the lower back from where the fluid will be withdrawn is marked, cleaned with aseptic solution and local anesthetic is injected to numb the area.
Under local anesthesia, a long thin needle is inserted between the two lumbar vertebrae on the lower back to withdraw a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.
There will be some pain and tenderness in the lower back after the procedure. Pain killers will be prescribed for the pain.
The cerebrospinal fluid that is collected is analyzed for texture, white blood cell count, glucose level, protein concentration and cancerous cells. Cultures of CSF samples are done when infections are suspected.
Risk and Complication
Although rare, there may be some side effects of spinal tap. Commonly known are
Bleeding near the puncture site.
Headache due to leak of cerebrospinal fluid to nearby tissues causing nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
Increased intracranial pressure can lead to compression of the brain stem after CSF sample is removed.
Pain and tenderness in the back, hips and legs.
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