Lumbar Puncture

What: A lumbar puncture uses a needle under X-ray guidance to draw spinal fluid for lab work. It is used to help diagnose:

  • Serious infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis
  • Bleeding around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage)
  • Certain cancers involving the brain and spinal cord
  • Certain inflammatory conditions of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome

What to expect: During your study, you will lie on your stomach on a motorized x-ray table that can be tilted up and down. Your back will be marked with a pen where the puncture will occur. This area is then sterilized. The sterilizing solution may feel cool or cold. Once sterile, the area will be draped. A local anesthetic is given prior to the lumbar puncture to make you more comfortable.

A long thin needle is inserted and the core of the needle will be removed to draw fluid. If no fluid is present, the needle will be repositioned or a different location may be chosen. A pressure reading may be taken. If so, the fluid is collected and sent to the lab for analysis. After the procedure, you can expect to remain in the x-ray department for up to one hour to minimize the chance of having a headache and to give your body a chance to replace the fluid that was drawn.


  • Please arrive 30 minutes prior to your exam time.
  • With approval from your doctor or provider, discontinue use of blood thinners such as Coumadin or aspirin as directed by the Radiologist Assistant.
  • Arrange for a family member or friend to accompany you. We require you to have a driver before being discharged.
  • Do not eat 4 hours prior to exam; take clear liquids only. Continue medications as prescribed except for blood thinners, as noted above.