A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is performed in your lower back, in the lumbar region. During a lumbar puncture, a needle is inserted between two lumbar bones (vertebrae) to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord to protect them from injury.
A lumbar puncture can help diagnose certain headache disorders, serious infections, such as meningitis; other disorders of the central nervous system, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and multiple sclerosis; or cancers of the brain or spinal cord.
Why it’s done
A lumbar puncture may be done to:
- Collect cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory analysis
- Measure the pressure inside the head
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
- Certain inflammatory conditions of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Certain headache syndromes
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