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What happens during the spinal tap?

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During the spinal tap:

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.

  • 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 you will 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 or she will remove the needle, clean the area, and cover it with a small bandage.

SOURCES:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Prepare for a Procedure: Lumbar Puncture.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF).”

Mayo Clinic. “Migraine: Diagnosis.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on August 29, 2018

SOURCES:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Prepare for a Procedure: Lumbar Puncture.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF).”

Mayo Clinic. “Migraine: Diagnosis.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on August 29, 2018

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How can a spinal tap help diagnose a headache?

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