What Is Spinal Tap?

Q:
What is spinal tap?

A:
A spinal tap is a procedure performed when a doctor or health care professional needs to evaluate the cerebrospinal fluid (also known as spinal fluid or CSF). Spinal tap is also referred to as a lumbar puncture, or LP.

Some of the reasons your doctor may want to do a spinal tap include the following:

  • To administer certain types of chemotherapeutics medications in the treatment of some cancers
  • To check to see if there is bleeding around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage; small amounts of blood will be found in the fluid)
  • To evaluate for uncommon diagnoses such as multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and several others.
  • To look for causes of unexplained seizures
  • To look for causes of headaches
  • To look for infection (bacteria can be found in the spinal fluid)

During a spinal tap, 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.

No special preparation is needed on your part before a spinal tap.

Always ask your doctor to fully explain the process to you as she or he is doing it. This talking through helps to lessen any anxiety that you may experience.

Keyword: spinal tap

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.