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Lumbar Puncture
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Lumbar Puncture Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


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.

Lumbar Puncture Method
Lumbar Puncture Method
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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.

Post-procedure Care

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

Health Canada


Adams RD, Victor M, Ropper AH. Disturbances of cerebrospinal fluid and its circulation, including hydrocephalus and meningeal reactions. In: Adams RD, Victor M, Ropper AH. Pinciples of neurology. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill; 1997:623-641.

Lumbar puncture (LP). DynaMed website. Available at . Updated August 19, 2009. Accessed October 9, 2009.

Lumbar puncture. Journal of American Medical Association website. Available at: . Updated July 2008. Accessed July 22, 2008.

Lumbar puncture test. The University of Iowa website. Available at: . Published 2005. Accessed September 22, 2009.

The PDR Family Guide Encyclopedia of Medical Care. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press; 1997.



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