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In this procedure, the doctor samples the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from your lower back. CSF is the fluid the brain and spinal cord sit in. It provides protection and nutrition to the brain and nerve cells. This fluid also helps to remove waste products from the brain.
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What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Prior to the procedure, your doctor will likely do the following:
- CT scan of the head —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures
- Clean the site where the needle will be inserted
Local anesthesia—just a small area is numbed; given as an injection
Description of Procedure
You will lie on your side with your knees drawn up to your abdomen. Sometimes, the procedure is done while you sit on the edge of the bed. A needle will be inserted into the spinal canal through the lower back. The doctor will take a sample of CSF through the needle. The pressure of the CSF will be measured. If you have discomfort, the needle may need to be repositioned. It may take several minutes for the doctor to collect all the fluid he needs. Once the doctor is done, the needle will be taken out, and a dressing will be placed.
Immediately After Procedure
You will lie down for 10-15 minutes. Unless you have a severe headache, you will be able to go home.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30-45 minutes from setup to completion
Will It Hurt?
Discomfort is minimal to moderate. The anesthetic will sting when first injected.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Drink extra fluids for the next 24 hours.
- Rest and remain quiet for at least 24 hours.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Library of Medicine
About Kids Health
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Lumbar puncture test. The University of Iowa website. Available at:
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The PDR Family Guide Encyclopedia of Medical Care. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press; 1997.