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Performing Spinal Tap in Southern California


Spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a needle into the lower back and withdraws a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This clear fluid is maintained at a certain pressure and acts as a protective barrier around the brain and spinal cord.

At Dignity Health Southern California, skilled neurologists, anesthesiologists, specialized nurses, and specialized physician assistants perform spinal tap. For more information about a spinal tap in Southern California, Find a Doctor online or visit a Dignity Health location near you:

Why We Perform Spinal Tap

Our doctors perform spinal tap to evaluate neurological conditions, such as:

  • Infections of the brain or spinal cord
  • Rise in intracranial pressure
  • Brain bleeding due to brain injury or other conditions such as a bleeding aneurysm or bleeding disorder

A spinal tap is also performed to deliver medication directly to the spinal cord.

What to Expect: Spinal Tap at Dignity Health Southern California

A spinal tap usually takes about 45 minutes. The procedure includes these steps:

  • Your doctor will clean the puncture area with antiseptic liquid and may give you numbing medication, which may sting for a moment.
  • A thin spinal needle is inserted in your lower back. There may be pressure or brief pain as the needle punctures the tissue surrounding your spinal cord.
  • Once the needle is in place, your doctor will record the CSF pressure and take a sample of fluid. Your doctor will also inject any necessary medications at this time.
  • Your doctor will remove the needle and cover the puncture site with a bandage.

Recovery After a Spinal Tap

With any lumbar puncture, there’s a risk of bleeding around the spinal cord. For this reason, your doctor will monitor you for several minutes after your procedure. To reduce the risk of bleeding or leaking CSF fluid, you’ll lie flat on your back to put pressure on the puncture area. Your doctor will likely recommend that you rest after you get home.

The most common side effect of spinal tap is a headache. Be sure to tell your doctor about this or any other complications you experience. Your test results will be available within a few days. Together with your doctor, you can plan next steps for treatment.

As part of our comprehensive neurology services, Dignity Health performs spinal tap in Southern California.