How It Is Done continued...
You will lie on a
bed on your side with your knees drawn up toward your chest. Or you may sit on
the edge of a chair or bed and lean forward over a table with your head and
chest bent toward your knees. These positions help widen the spaces between the
bones of the lower spine so that the needle can be inserted more easily. If
fluoroscopy is used, you will lie on your stomach so the fluoroscopy machine
can take pictures of your spine during the procedure. See a picture of a
lumbar puncture .
Your doctor marks your lower back (lumbar area)
with a pen where the puncture will occur. The area is cleaned with a special
soap and draped with sterile towels. A numbing medicine (local anesthetic) is
put in the skin.
Then a long, thin needle is put in the spinal
canal. When the needle is in place, the solid central core of the needle
(stylet) is removed. If the needle is in the right spot in the spinal canal, a
small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will drip from the end of the needle.
If not, the stylet will be put back in and the needle will be moved in a little
farther or at a different angle to get to the fluid. Your doctor may need to
move to another area of your spine if it is hard to get to the spinal
When the needle is in the spinal canal, a device called a
manometer is hooked to the needle to measure the pressure of the CSF. You may
be asked to straighten your legs while you are lying down. Your doctor takes
the pressure reading, called the opening pressure, and checks whether the fluid
is clear, cloudy, or bloody. Several small samples of fluid are collected and
sent to the lab for study.
A final pressure reading, called the
closing pressure, may be taken after the fluid samples are done. The needle is
taken out and the puncture site is cleaned and bandaged.
entire procedure takes about 30 minutes.
To lower your chance of
getting a headache following a lumbar puncture, you may be told to lie flat in
bed or with your head slightly raised for 1 to 4 hours. Since your brain makes
new CSF all the time and replaces it 2 to 3 times a day, the small amount of
fluid that is removed will be quickly replaced. You may be told to drink extra
fluids after the procedure to help prevent or to reduce the severity of a
How It Feels
Some people find it uncomfortable to lie
curled up on their side. The soap may feel cold on your back. You will probably
feel a brief pinch or sting when the numbing medicine is given. You may feel a
brief pain when the spinal needle is inserted or repositioned.