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    Diagnosing Migraines & Headaches With a Spinal Tap

    Can I Eat Before a Spinal Tap?

    You may eat a light breakfast the morning of the test.

    What Happens During the Spinal Tap?

    • The doctor and possibly a nurse or a technologist will be in the room with you during the procedure.
    • You’ll get some medicine to help you relax.
    • You'll wear a hospital gown during the test.
    • You will either lie on your side with your knees drawn as close to your chest as possible and your chin toward your chest, or lie on your stomach with a small pillow beneath your lower belly.
    • After your care team cleans your back with an antiseptic, they’ll place sterile cloths around the area.
    • You’ll get a shot of pain-relieving medication injected into the area of your back where they’ll draw the fluid. You may feel a slight burning sensation.
    • When the area is numb, the doctor will put a hollow needle in your lower back between the two lumbar vertebrae. This sometimes causes pressure.
    • Once the doctor collects enough fluid, he’ll remove the needle, clean the area, and cover it with a small bandage.

    Your doctor may also want to take a blood sample from a vein in your arm and send it to the lab for testing as well.

    What Happens After a Spinal Tap?

    • You'll lie on your back or stomach for about an hour.
    • Your care team will keep an eye on you for a few hours. A nurse will also give you instructions on how to take care of yourself.
    • You may feel some discomfort or have a headache
    • Your doctor will talk with you about the results of the test within 24 hours.

    For the first 24 hours after a spinal tap:

    • Your doctor may ask you to stay flat on your back as much as possible.
    • Drink at least 2 1/2 quarts of fluid.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on July 15, 2016
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