The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by fluid, called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which protects them from injury, circulates nutrients, and removes waste from the brain. In a spinal tap, also called lumbar puncture, a doctor removes some of that fluid and sends it to a lab for testing.
The test can help doctors diagnose disorders that may involve the brain, spinal cord, or their coverings (meninges). If you have headaches or migraines, your doctor may use a spinal tap to look for signs of infection, bleeding in the brain, to measure the pressure around your brain, or other things that could be causing your pain.
Migraines are a type of headache that tend to cause other symptoms, too, such as nausea and vision problems. They can last for a few hours to a few days. But a migraine that lasts for more than 72 hours is called status migrainosus. To treat it, you may need to go to the hospital to get help relieving the pain and dehydration from vomiting.
A typical migraine can sometimes turn into status migrainosus if:
You don’t get treatment early enough after the attack starts.
You don’t get the...
Tell your doctor about any medications you take, including over-the counter and prescription drugs. Also tell your doctor if you're allergic to any medicine. Do not stop taking your medications without talking with your primary doctor and the doctor who orders the spinal tap.
Tell your doctor if you're pregnant (or think you might be), or if you have diabetes.
Do not take any blood thinners -- like clopidogrel (Plavix), dipyridamole (Persantine), or warfarin (Coumadin) -- within 72 hours before the test.
Do not take aspirin or any products that have it within 1 week before the test.
Ask your doctor about alcohol use before the test. Generally, you should not drink any beer, wine, or liquor for at least 24 hours beforehand.
Make arrangements for someone to take you home when it’s over. You should not drive right after the test.
Do not bring valuables such as jewelry or credit cards.
You'll need to give verbal and written consent for the spinal tap. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have before you give consent. For example, you may want to know about the steps of the procedure and its risks and benefits.