A spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, is a neurological procedure used to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear, colorless fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. CSF acts as a shock absorber, buffering the brain and spinal cord from damage.
CSF is taken from the lumbar, or lower back area of the spine. This location is easily accessible and poses the least risk of needle injury to the spinal cord. At Dignity Health North State, our expert neurologists, anesthesiologists, specialized nurses, and physician assistants perform spinal taps in Northern California. Find a Doctor online to schedule an appointment.
Why a Spinal Tap is Performed
Doctors perform a spinal tap to investigate a number of conditions, including:
- Infections of the brain or spinal cord
- Brain bleeding due to brain injury or other conditions, such as a bleeding aneurysm or bleeding disorder
- Rise in intracranial pressure, which can be due to increased CSF pressure
Doctors also perform lumbar punctures to deliver medications directly to the spinal cord area.
What to Expect with Spinal Tap at Dignity Health North State
A spinal tap normally takes about 45 minutes. Your doctor will ask you to either lie on your side or sit on the edge of the exam table. The puncture location will be carefully cleaned with an antiseptic liquid. Before inserting a thin spinal needle, your doctor may inject a numbing medication. Once the spinal needle is in place, your doctor will record the CSF pressure and withdraws a sample of fluid. If you need any medications, your doctor will inject them at this at this time. Your doctor then removes the needle and bandages the puncture site.
Recovery After a Spinal Tap
Your doctor will ask you lie on your back for several minutes following your spinal tap. This is to insure that there is no bleeding around the spinal cord and to put pressure on the puncture site to reduce CSF leaking or bleeding from the site. You may need to rest the remainder of the day at home.
The most common complication of a spinal tap is headache. This is likely due to the spinal tap causing a temporary change in intracranial pressure. Any complications, including lumbar puncture headache, should be reported to your doctor.
Results are usually returned within a few days. At that time, your Dignity Health doctor will explain the results and create your personalized treatment plan based on them.
Dignity Health North State hospitals offer expert spinal tap in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.