Munson Health
Lumbar Puncture

Back to Document

by Lukas R

(Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis; Cerebrospinal Fluid Tap; Spinal Tap)


Reasons for Procedure

The test is done to look for abnormalities in the spinal fluid. It may be done to help diagnose conditions such as:
The procedure may also be done to:
  • Administer dye for imaging studies
  • Drain CSF to lower pressure within the brain
  • Give medication directly to the spine such as chemotherapy , antibiotics, and anesthesia

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a lumbar puncture, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. Complications may include:
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Bleeding, which can compress the nerve roots or spinal cord
  • Pain or abnormal burning, pricking, or tingling sensations in legs
  • Allergic reaction to anesthetic
  • Infection

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

A CT scan or an MRI scan of the head may be ordered before the procedure. These scans make detailed pictures of your brain.
Just before the procedure, your doctor will clean the site where the needle will be inserted.


Local anesthesia will be used most often. It numbs just a small area. The medication is injected with a needle.

Description of Procedure

You will lie on your side with your knees drawn up in front. Some punctures may be done while you sit on the edge of the bed. A needle will be inserted into the spinal canal through the lower back. A sample of CSF will be taken through the needle.
During the procedure, the pressure of the CSF may be noted. If you have discomfort, the needle may need to be repositioned. It may take several minutes to collect the fluid needed. The needle will be removed. A dressing will be placed over the puncture.

Immediately After Procedure

You will lie down for 10-15 minutes. In most cases, you will be able to go home after the procedure. If you have a severe headache or need immediate treatment, you may need to stay longer.

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 Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke



About Kids Health

Health Canada



Lumbar puncture (LP). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at Updated May 31, 2012. Accessed February 13, 2014.

Torpy J, Lynm C, Glass R. Lumbar puncture. JAMA. 2006;296(16):2050. Available at: Accessed February 13, 2014.

Lumbar puncture test. The University of Iowa website. Available at: Accessed February 13, 2014.


Revision Information