A lumbar puncture can help diagnose serious infections, such as meningitis; other disorders of the central nervous system, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and multiple sclerosis; bleeding; or cancers of the brain or spinal cord.
During a spinal tap (lumbar puncture), a healthcare provider withdraws cerebrospinal fluid. This test can detect meningitis, leukemia and other illness. Providers also use spinal taps to give spinal anesthesia (epidural) and medications.
There is a very small possibility of more severe complications following a spinal tap, including infection, bleeding, numbness, and brain herniation (movement of the brain tissue due to pressure). Nerve or spinal cord damage is extremely uncommon.
Diseases detected by CSF analysis
- fungal infections.
- West Nile virus.
- eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV)
Often, a lumbar puncture is done because doctors need to do some tests on the CSF to help them make a diagnosis. Doctors may look for changes in the fluid that could indicate infection or bleeding, or unusual or uncommon cells that could be a sign of a neurological disorder.
A lumbar puncture may be used to: take a sample of fluid from your spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid) or measure the fluid's pressure – to help diagnose a condition. inject medicine – such as painkillers, antibiotics or chemotherapy.
A spinal tap can tell you whether the amount of protein, white blood cells, or myelin in your spinal fluid is too high. It can also reveal whether the fluid in your spine contains an abnormal level of antibodies. Analyzing your spinal fluid also can show your doctor whether you might have another condition and not MS.
The doctor might want your child to lie down on their back for an hour or so after the test. Some results are ready within 30 to 60 minutes. But bacterial cultures done to look for specific bacteria go to the lab. These results are usually ready in about 48 to 72 hours.
A CSF analysis may include tests to diagnose: Infectious diseases of the brain and spinal cord, including meningitis and encephalitis. CSF tests for infections look at white blood cells, bacteria, and other substances in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Overview. A lumbar puncture (LP), also called a spinal tap, is an invasive outpatient procedure used to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the subarachnoid space in the spine. (This test is similar to a blood test, in which a needle is inserted into an artery to collect blood for testing.)
Information gathered from a lumbar puncture can help diagnose: Serious bacterial, fungal and viral infections, including meningitis, encephalitis and syphilis. Bleeding around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage) Certain cancers involving the brain or spinal cord.
A small special needle is used to remove some fluid from below the spinal cord. Before the needle is used, the doctor will numb the spot where the needle will go. Most children will be awake for this test, but occasionally the test may be done under sedation.
“Spinal taps are usually uncomfortable but seldom extremely painful,” notes Giesser. When the needle used to remove spinal fluid is inserted through your spinal membrane and into the spinal canal, you may feel pressure in your back, but this part of the procedure is usually painless.
You get this condition when something blocks the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which protects your spinal cord and brain. It enters the central canal of the spinal cord and can cause a cyst to form. With syringomyelia, there are two main reasons this fluid can get blocked or rerouted: a birth defect or trauma.
The duty physician advises you that the patient will require four hours bed rest after the lumbar puncture. The duty anaesthetist overhears and says that the patient will be able to go home immediately.
The spinal cord usually ends at the inferior border of L1 or the superior border of L2. Therefore, inserting the needle between L3 and L4 or L4 and L5 is relatively safe. This level corresponds to the lumbar cistern.
Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of part of the spinal cord. The exact cause is often not known, but it sometimes happens after infections or in people with autoimmune diseases. Common symptoms are back or neck pain, weakness or sensation changes in the arms or legs, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
The CSF is clear and colorless in all patients with MS, and most patients have normal cell counts and total protein levels.
Care after a spinal tap
Avoid strenuous or vigorous exercise for a day or so following the lumbar puncture. If you have a headache, lay down as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids. Contact your health care provider if the headache persists.
However, on the day of the procedure, do not eat for three hours before the procedure. You may have liquids and can take your usual medications unless previously advised to hold certain medications in preparation for the lumbar puncture.
Spinal headache symptoms include: Dull, throbbing pain that varies in intensity from mild to very severe. Pain that typically gets worse when you sit up or stand and decreases or goes away when you lie down.
Four disease courses have been identified in multiple sclerosis: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS).