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Lumbar Puncture

A lumbar puncture is a procedure that uses X-ray guidance to assist in the removal of a sample of spinal fluid for analysis.

Preparation For Your Exam

Do not eat any solid foods after 9 pm on the evening before your procedure. You may have clear liquids until three hours before your appointment.

You may take your routine medications on the day of the procedure.

If back pain is a problem for you, you may take your usual pain medication in preparation for the procedure.

If you are coming as an outpatient, make arrangements for someone to drive you home after the procedure. You may not drive home yourself.

During the Exam

When you arrive in the radiology department, you will be placed on your stomach on the X-ray table. Please let us know if you feel that this position will be difficult for you. (A lumbar puncture takes between a half hour and an hour to complete.)

A small area on your back will be washed and a local anesthetic will be injected to make the area numb. The local anesthetic may sting for a few moments. After that you should be quite comfortable.

Next a needle will be placed into an area near your spine. A small sample of spinal fluid will be taken, and then the needle will be withdrawn. A bandage will be placed over the site. (The fluid sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.)

After the Exam

After the procedure, you'll lie on your back for one hour. The nurse will assist you with a bedpan or urinal during this time if necessary.

You may eat or drink as you like.

Be sure to let your nurse know if you experience a headache, leg pain or backache.

How do I care for myself at home?

When you are discharged, you must travel with a companion and may not drive.
When you arrive home, we suggest that you rest and limit your activity. If you have small children, arrange for someone to care for them.
If you have a headache, take two Tylenol tablets (325 mg each) every four hours as needed. If a headache or nausea persists, contact your personal physician.

Getting Your Results

Your physician will receive the results of the spinal fluid analysis within a few days and will discuss these results with you.