Procedure, Preparation and Complications of a Spinal Tap Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Spinal Tap Test

A spinal tap test is also known as Lumbar puncture test., It is essentially a medical procedure wherein a specimen of the spinal fluid is extracted. The doctor can then analyze and identify the causes of a number of conditions including neurological disorders as well as brain and spinal cord damage. It is also commonly used to measure the pressure within the cerebrospinal fluid. This is a clear, colorless liquid that delivers nutrients as well as cushions the brain and spinal cord or central nervous system. The spinal tap procedure allows the medical staff to analyze the CSF liquid and analyze its white blood cell count, protein and glucose levels. This helps to identify any specific diseases affecting the central nervous system. Meningitis is a condition which commonly uses the spinal tap procedure during its diagnosis, while other conditions include Guillian Barre syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

Procedure To Conduct the Test

The spinal tap procedure will require the patient to lie down on the flatbed on his or her side with the knees curled up toward the abdomen and the chin tucked into the chest. The skin will then be scrubbed and a local anesthetic injected into the lower spine between the 3rd and 4th lumbar vertebrae. Once the sample has been collected, the needle will be withdrawn and the area cleaned again before a bandage applied. While the position that you are required to be in may be uncomfortable, it is essential that you remain stiff in the curled position as any sort of movement could move the needle and injure your spinal cord – something that will have very serious consequences to your movement and overall lifestyle. At the time of insertion of the needle, the patient is likely to experience a brief sharp stinging pain when the needle penetrates the meninges.


There is no specific preparation required when being subjected to a spinal tap procedure. However, it is important that you inform your doctor of any medication that you are under in the event it alters the outcome of your test. Being allergic to anesthetics is something that you will definitely need to highlight to avoid any unforeseen complications during the procedure. Being pregnant or under a prescription of blood thinners will also need to be informed.


There are no extraordinary spinal tap complications and any risks involved are usually limited to the amount of discomfort experienced during the procedure as well as a headache after the test. In rare cases, there may also be the risk of bleeding into the spinal canal.