Lumbar Puncture

Also known as: spinal tap.

What is lumbar puncture?

Lumbar puncture and spinal tap are two terms for the same medical procedure. It involves removing a sample of spinal fluid from the spine in order to diagnose a potential infection.

What happens during the procedure? 

The patient will lie on his or her side, a local anesthetic is applied, and a needle is inserted into the back. Some spinal fluid is withdrawn, and the needle is removed.

Is any special preparation needed? 

You may need to stop taking certain medications before the procedure. In some cases, a CT scan is necessary before the procedure is performed.

What are the risk factors? 

Headache, back pain, bleeding and a herniation of the brainstem are potential complications of lumbar puncture.


Reviewed by: Marcos A Mestre, MD

This page was last updated on: March 26, 2019 12:28 PM

Learn more about

Interventional Radiology (IR)

Interventional radiology (IR) is when doctors use pictures or images known as “image-guided procedures” to help guide to the body part on the inside that needs to be treated or tested. Learn more