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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epilepsy and the Spinal Tap

What to Expect During 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 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). A nurse will discuss post-procedure instructions with you and provide the instructions to you in written form.
  • Avoid strenuous or vigorous exercise for a day or so following the lumbar puncture.
  • If you have a headache, lie 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 spinal tap and the day after (regardless of headache).

You should contact your your referring doctor to let the doctor know that you have had the procedure and that you are waiting for the results. .

When to Contact the Doctor After a Spinal Tap

Call your local doctor immediately if after a spinal tap:

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

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on February 07, 2015
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