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Overview: Lumbar puncture or spinal tap is a procedure performed in your lower back. A lumbar puncture can help identify some serious infections such as meningitis, disorders of the central nervous system, or cancers of the brain and spinal cord. At times, doctors also use lumbar punctures to inject anesthetic medications or chemotherapy drugs into the cerebrospinal fluid.
The information gathered from a lumbar puncture can help identify:
General anesthesia is administered into your lower back to numb the puncture site before the needle is inserted. A thin, hollow needle is then implanted between your two lower vertebrae, through the spinal membrane and into the spinal canal. You may feel some pressure in your back during this part of the spinal tap procedure. The cerebrospinal fluid pressure is then measured, a small amount of fluid is withdrawn, and the pressure is measured again. A lumbar puncture procedure usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour.
Though lumbar puncture procedures are quite safe, they do carry a few possible complications. These risks include:
You will be asked to avoid driving, heavy lifting for some weeks
Brainstem herniation: Brainstem herniation is a potentially deadly side effect of very high pressure within the skull that occurs when a part of the brain is squeezed across structures within the skullLearn Less
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