Prepare for a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)

A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is a diagnostic and at times therapeutic procedure that is performed in order to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory analysis, or rarely to relieve increased intracranial pressure. X-Rays pictures are used to image the spine.

Patient Safety Tips Prior to a Lumbar Puncture

  • Please let us know if you have any allergies or adverse reactions to medications.
  • If you are pregnant or may be pregnant, please tell your doctor or technologist.
  • Please leave your valuables at home or in your room in the hospital.
  • Please let us now if you need interpreting services, this can be arranged for you.
  • Please bring a list of your current medications with you (out-patient). Stop taking Aspirin or aspirin-containing products at least 5 days prior to the procedure. If you are taking other blood thinning medications (Plavix, Coumadin or warfarin, Lovenox, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin®, Ibuprofen), contact your doctor to discuss.
  • For outpatients, a responsible adult must accompany you home after the exam.

Preparation for the procedure

  • Outpatients, please arrive 60 minutes before the scheduled exam time.
  • The technologist will verify your identification and exam requested.
  • There will be an opportunity for you to talk to the radiologist about the plan for the procedure and give your consent.
  • Bring any x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans of your spine or brain to the hospital.

During the procedure

  • The duration of the procedure will vary, but the average is about 1 hour.
  • The technologist will position you on the exam table, usually on your stomach.
  • The technologist and radiologist will be available to answer any questions.

After the procedure

  • After the procedure, you will be brought into the Radiology holding area for observation.
  • It is important to remain flat on your back as much as possible.
  • Drink extra fluids for the remainder of the day. Avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine for 24 hours.
  • If you feel any symptoms such as fever, chills, increase in back pain at rest, difficulty moving your legs or abnormal sensations in your legs, let the nurse know, or call your doctor, or if you are very worried visit an emergency room.