Spinal Tap or Lumbar Puncture


The spinal cord comprises of bundle of nerve fibers and associated tissue that is connected to the brain and runs down the back. It is a part of central nervous system (CNS). The spinal cord primarily functions as the neural signal transmitter between the brain and the rest of the body. It is responsible for most reflexes, controlling muscles and movement as well as the sense of touch. The spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spine and surrounded by a clear fluid called Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF).

A spinal tap (also called lumbar puncture) is a procedure done to collect and look at the fluid (CSF) for infection, cancers, and bleeding.


Procedure: Patient is brought to the operating room and asked to lie on his/her side, with the knees bent in full flexion up to the chest or asked to bend over while sitting. Once the doctor palpates the appropriate location in the lower back, the region is cleansed and local anaesthetic is infiltrated under the skin to numb. Then a long spinal needle is inserted into the spinal canal (lumbar area) and pushed until the needle reaches the space just outside the membrane that surrounds the cerebrospinal fluid, the “dura”. The needle is further inserted to reach CSF by piercing the dura. Then, a tap is inserted and the fluid is collected into vials and sent to a laboratory to diagnose if there is any serious infections such as meningitis, disorders of the central nervous system such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and multiple sclerosis or cancers of the brain or spinal cord.

After the procedure, a bandage is placed at the injection site and the patient is advised not to bathe for 24 hours.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 30, 2019

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