Lumbar puncture

Lumbar puncture | Haemato Oncology | Apex Hospitals, Jaipur

Apex Hospitals - Procedure

What is a Lumbar puncture?

    A lumbar puncture, commonly referred to as a spinal tap, is a medical procedure performed at top-tier medical facilities like Apex Hospitals in Jaipur, especially within the context of cancer diagnosis and treatment. This procedure is often conducted under the supervision of haemato-oncologists, who specialize in managing blood disorders and cancers.

    During a lumbar puncture, a fine needle is carefully inserted into the lower back, specifically into the lumbar region of the spine. The needle penetrates the protective layers surrounding the spinal cord to access the spinal canal's cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, serving as a protective cushion and providing nutrients to these vital structures.

Why is Lumbar Puncture done?

    Your healthcare provider may recommend a lumbar puncture for various diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. This procedure is commonly utilized to investigate and address the following medical conditions:

  • Meningitis
  • Dementia
  • Myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain tissue)
  • Demyelinating diseases, including multiple sclerosis
  • Autoimmune conditions affecting the central nervous system
  • Cancers that can impact the spinal cord, brain, or blood, such as leukemia
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage (bleeding around the brain)

    Additionally, in certain situations, a lumbar puncture may be employed as a method of delivering medications directly into the spinal canal. For instance, healthcare providers may administer chemotherapy drugs through this procedure.

What are the risks associated with Lumbar puncture?

    As this procedure involves delicate areas such as the spinal cord and brain, it's essential to be aware of potential complications, including:

    1. CSF Leakage: There's a risk of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaking from the needle insertion site, leading to post-procedure headaches. If the leak persists, headaches can become severe.

    2. Infection Risk: The needle puncture creates a pathway for bacteria to enter the body, increasing the risk of infection.

    3. Numbness and Lower Back Pain: Temporary numbness of the legs or lower back pain may occur following the procedure.

    4. Bleeding in the Spinal Canal: There's a potential risk of bleeding within the spinal canal, which can lead to complications.

    Additionally, other risks may vary based on your specific medical condition. Addressing any concerns with your healthcare provider before undergoing the procedure is crucial.

Procedure Details

Before the procedure:

    If your healthcare provider schedules a lumbar puncture, they may advise the following preparations before your test, alongside conducting a physical exam and reviewing your health history:

    1. CT scan or MRI: Your healthcare provider may recommend undergoing a CT scan or MRI to gather additional information about the area of your body that will be examined during the procedure.

    2. Blood Test: A blood test may be ordered to assess your overall health status and ensure the procedure is safe.

    3. Medication Adjustments: If you take blood thinners like aspirin, your healthcare provider may advise you to stop or adjust your medication schedule before the lumbar puncture. However, it's essential to modify your medication routine with your healthcare provider's approval.

    These preparations are essential to ensure the safety and efficacy of the procedure and minimize the risk of complications. Your healthcare provider will provide specific or additional instructions to help you prepare adequately.

During the procedure

    A lumbar puncture procedure can be conducted on an outpatient basis or as part of a hospital stay, depending on your condition and doctor's preferences. Variations may exist in the procedure depending on individual circumstances and healthcare provider practices. Some providers may perform the procedure at the bedside, while others may use fluoroscopic guidance, a live X-ray technique.

    The typical steps involved in a lumbar puncture procedure include:

    1. Preparation: You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewellery, or items that may interfere with the procedure and will be provided a gown. You will also be reminded to empty your bladder before the procedure begins.

    2. Positioning: You may lie on your side on the exam table with your chin tucked to your chest and knees drawn up to your abdomen or sit on the table's edge with your arms resting on a nearby surface. Either position helps to arch the back, widening the spaces between the vertebrae.

    3. Sterilization and Anaesthesia: The area of your back where the puncture will occur will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and covered with sterile towels. The healthcare provider will wear sterile gloves. A local anaesthetic will be injected to numb the skin, reducing pain during the procedure.

    4. Needle Insertion: A hollow needle will be carefully inserted through the numbed skin and into the space containing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). You may feel pressure as the needle is inserted, and it's essential to remain still.

    5. CSF Collection: CSF will begin to flow out of the needle, and a small amount will be collected into test tubes for analysis. If necessary, medication may be injected into the spinal canal through the same needle after CSF collection.

    6. Completion: Once the procedure is finished, the needle will be removed, and a bandage will be applied to the injection site. The collected samples will be sent to the lab for testing.

    During the procedure, inform your healthcare provider if you experience any numbness, tingling, headache, or light-headedness. Discomfort may occur, but healthcare providers will employ various comfort measures and aim to complete the procedure swiftly to minimize discomfort or pain.

After the procedure

    To minimize the risk of developing a headache, you will be encouraged to avoid elevating your head and may be allowed to roll from side to side while remaining flat. A bedpan or urinal will be provided for urination during this period if necessary.

    After the procedure, you will be advised to drink extra fluids to replenish the cerebrospinal fluid withdrawn during the lumbar puncture, which helps reduce the likelihood of developing a headache.

    You may either be transferred to your hospital room or discharged home upon recovery. If discharged, your healthcare provider will typically recommend resting for the remainder of the day.

    Upon returning home, promptly notify your provider if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the legs
  • Blood drainage or pain at the injection site
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Persistent headaches lasting more than a few hours after the procedure or worsening with positional changes

    If headaches persist, contact the neuroradiology team using the provided phone number in your discharge instructions.

    It is expected to be advised to limit activity for 24 hours following the lumbar puncture. Your healthcare provider may also provide additional specific instructions regarding post-procedure care.


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