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Epilepsy and the Spinal Tap

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What to Expect From a Spinal Tap continued...

Side effects and risks of a spinal tap

  • Approximately 10% to 20% of people develop a spinal headache (one that worsens when sitting or standing).
  • The risk of infection is extremely low.
  • Occasionally, a small blood vessel is pierced, causing bloody discharge. No treatment is needed.
  • The procedure is usually not painful, but momentary twinges of pain may be felt if the needle brushes against nerve tissue.

Care after a spinal tap

  • Once a spinal tap is completed, you will be instructed to lie flat. The time spent flat after the tap will vary depending on why you received the procedure.
  • Avoid strenuous or vigorous exercise for a day or so following the lumbar puncture.
  • If you have a headache, lay down as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Contact your health care provider if the headache persists.
  • Drink 2 1/2 quarts of liquid the day of the lumbar puncture and the day after (regardless of headache).

When to Contact the Doctor After a Spinal Tap

After a spinal tap, call your local doctor immediately if:

  • You notice any unusual drainage, including bloody discharge, at the puncture site
  • You develop a fever
  • Your headache persists
  • Your pain symptoms worsen

After the Spinal Tap

You will be monitored for a few hours after a spinal tap procedure. At that time, the nurse will discuss post-procedure instructions with you. You will be provided with a written form of these instructions to follow at home.

The results of your spinal tap will be discussed with the doctor who ordered it within 24 hours.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jon Glass on June 16, 2012
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