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A lumbar puncture (also called a spinal tap) is a procedure to collect and look at the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
During a lumbar puncture, a needle is carefully inserted into the spinal canal low in the back (lumbar area). Samples of CSF are collected. The samples are studied for color, blood cell counts, protein, glucose, and other substances. Some of the sample may be put into a special culture cup to see if any infection, such as bacteria or fungi, grows. The pressure of the CSF also is measured during the procedure.
Why It Is Done
In rare cases, a lumbar puncture may be used to lower the pressure in the brain caused by too much CSF.
How To Prepare
Before you have a lumbar puncture, tell your doctor if you:
You will empty your bladder before the procedure.
For a lumbar puncture, you will be asked to sign a consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the procedure, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. This procedure is often done in an emergency situation. If you are scheduled to have this procedure, you can understand the importance of it by filling out the medical test information form
How It Is Done
A lumbar puncture may be done in your doctor’s office, in an emergency room, or at your bedside in the hospital. It may also be done in the radiology department if fluoroscopy is used.
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