Lumbar Puncture

What is a lumbar puncture?

Lumbar Puncture Image

During a lumbar puncture, the physician will insert a needle into your child's lower spine to:

  • Obtain cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord) to look for infection or cancer cells
  • Administer a chemotherapy agent for patients with cancer 
  • Monitor and relieve cerebrospinal fluid pressure for patients with pseudotumor

How is a lumbar puncture performed?

Your child will be placed on his side or stomach. We will inject local numbing medicine into the area around the spine. Using ultrasound or live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance, the doctor will insert a needle into the spinal space. Once the needle is in the correct position, fluid will be removed and sent to the laboratory and/or medicine will be injected.

Will my child be awake for the procedure?

We will use either light sedation or a local numbing medicine depending on your child's age and medical history.

What are the risks of a lumbar puncture?

The procedure is considered low-risk. However, potential complications include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Headache

Will my child be in any pain after the procedure?

There might be mild bruising or tenderness in the lower back for a day or two.

What should I expect after the procedure is complete?

After the procedure is complete, your child will need to lie on his back in the recovery area for one hour to minimize the chance of having a headache. Then your child will be able to go home or return to his hospital room.

When can my child bathe?

We will place a Band-Aid® or clear bandage and gauze over the site. Keep the area dry for 24 hours. After 24 hours, you may remove the bandage and your child may shower or take a bath as usual.

Next Steps