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Lumbar Puncture Procedure & Technique

Scheduling and Directions

DeKalb Medical performs the lumbar puncture procedure to draw fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A lumbar puncture procedure is used to determine if an infection is present, to detect neurological disorders or to diagnose spinal damage. A lumbar puncture procedure also is referred to as a spinal tap.

A lumbar puncture procedure may be done to measure pressures within the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and/or to collect a sample of the fluid for further testing. CSF acts as a cushion, protecting the brain and spine from injury. The fluid normally is clear.

Fluoroscopy is used to help guide the needle that draws the fluid sample into the proper position using the lumbar puncture technique.

The laboratory will send the results from your lumbar puncture to your physician who will share the results with you.

Read more about lumbar puncture.

Preparing for Your Lumbar Puncture

When having a lumbar puncture at DeKalb Medical, you should increase your fluid intake the day prior to your exam. Then after midnight you should not have anything to eat or drink. Continue to fast until your lumbar puncture procedure is complete. Ask your physician about any medications you are taking. If you are a diabetic, ask your physician for special instructions.

You will need to have someone drive you home after your procedure. Most lumbar puncture procedures last about one hour, although you need to arrive two hours before your test to register, obtain lab work and complete your medical history. After your procedure is complete you will stay an additional three to four hours for observation.

During Your Lumbar Puncture

You will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area where a needle will be inserted into the spinal canal. You may feel pressure or a brief tingling sensation during insertion of the needle. Fluoroscopy is used to guide the needle into place.

When the needle is in place, the X-ray table may be tilted or you may be asked to move in different positions to allow the best collection of the spinal fluid. When enough fluid has been obtained for testing, the needle is removed and a bandage is placed over the needle site.

After Your Lumbar Puncture

You will be transferred to a bed to lie flat and be observed and monitored by a nurse for the next three to four hours.

Occasionally you may get a headache after having a lumbar puncture. These tips may help reduce the chances of a headache:

  • Once home, you may lie down with your head flat for 12 hours after the exam.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before and after your exam, unless restricted by your physician.
  • Limit walking to only when necessary.
  • Make arrangements for someone to stay with you overnight.
  • The laboratory will send the results from your lumbar puncture to your physician who will share the results with you.

Scheduling and Directions

Your physician will contact DeKalb Medical to schedule your lumbar puncture procedure for you.

If your lumbar puncture will be performed at DeKalb Medical at North Decatur, you will go to the hospital’s central registration area.

  • From North Decatur Road, enter the hospital campus via Wash Lively Road.
  • At road end, turn right. (Note: If you are in a wheelchair or need to be dropped off at the entrance, turn left and proceed to the Central Registration patient drop-off which is on the right just past the main hospital entrance. Your driver should then turn around and continue to the Visitor/Patient parking deck.)
  • At stop sign, turn left and park in the Visitor/Patient parking deck.
  • Take any elevator or stairs to the 3rd level.
  • Proceed to the Pedestrian Bridge to the hospital.
  • Take bridge straight ahead to the escalators.
  • Take escalators down one level.
  • Once off escalators, turn right and immediately left and follow the directions to the hospital main lobby.
  • Proceed past the hospital Gift Shop on your right.
  • Once in the main lobby, follow the hallway to Central Registration.
  • At the end of hallway, turn left.
  • Central Registration is on the right.

If your lumbar puncture is being performed at DeKalb Medical at Hillandale, go to the hospital’s registration area.

  • Park in the hospital parking lot.
  • Proceed to the main entrance of the hospital.
  • Registration is directly on the right – you must register before proceeding to the Imaging Department.
  • When you have completed registration, a staff member will direct you to the Imaging Department.
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