What Should I Do after Lumbar Puncture?

Christina Edwards

A lumbar puncture, sometimes referred to as a spinal tap, is a procedure in which a needle is used to take a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid. Patients are usually advised to lie down for at least a few hours after lumbar puncture procedures to prevent a severe headache. Pain medication can also be used to dull a headache, and caffeinated drinks are also recommended. You should also stay hydrated by drinking liquids and avoiding alcohol. Certain lumbar puncture side effects, like bleeding or numbness, should also be reported to your doctor as soon as possible.

A spinal fluid analysis may be required for individuals who are suffering from meningitis.
A spinal fluid analysis may be required for individuals who are suffering from meningitis.

Samples of cerebrospinal fluid can be used in diagnostic tests for certain diseases, like meningitis. When this fluid is removed from the area surrounding the spinal column, it will often lower the pressure in the brain. This lower pressure can cause the blood vessels in the brain to dilate, resulting in severe headaches in most patients.

Headache and radiating pain down the neck may occur after a lumbar puncture procedure.
Headache and radiating pain down the neck may occur after a lumbar puncture procedure.

Headaches after lumbar puncture are quite common, and although some patients experience mild pain, many experience severe pain. Most doctors will advise their patients to lie on their backs after a spinal tap. This will help prevent these headaches. Usually, you should lie down anywhere from an hour to a few hours.

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Blood vessels dilating causes severe headaches in most people following a lumbar puncture.
Blood vessels dilating causes severe headaches in most people following a lumbar puncture.

Many times, doctors will also prescribe pain medication after lumbar puncture procedures. These should be taken as prescribed to help relieve the pain of the headaches. Some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can also be used. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two popular examples of these.

When fluid is removed from the area surrounding the spinal column, it may help lower pressure in the brain.
When fluid is removed from the area surrounding the spinal column, it may help lower pressure in the brain.

Caffeine will also work to help relieve the pain of headaches after lumbar puncture procedures. This substance will usually help constrict the dilated blood vessels that are causing the headaches. Soda, coffee, and tea are a few good examples of drinks that contain caffeine. Intravenous caffeine may also be used in some cases.

Staying hydrated can help you avoid some of the side effects of a lumbar puncture.
Staying hydrated can help you avoid some of the side effects of a lumbar puncture.

Along with drinking caffeinated drinks, you should also consume other liquids. Water and juice are typically considered the best beverages to keep you hydrated. Alcohol, including beer and wine, should be avoided, since these can cause you to become even more dehydrated.

Ibuprofen is often suggested following a lumbar puncture.
Ibuprofen is often suggested following a lumbar puncture.

Headaches after lumbar puncture procedures will usually go away within a day. If the pain persists or gets worse, you should contact your physician as soon as possible. He may suggest performing something known as a blood patch. During this procedure, a small sample of blood is taken from your body and injected into your spinal sac. The blood will then clot and patch any holes in the spinal sac where cerebrospinal fluid is leaking.

Drinking coffee may help relieve discomfort after a lumbar puncture.
Drinking coffee may help relieve discomfort after a lumbar puncture.

Although they are rare, other serious side effects of a lumbar puncture can also occur. You should notify your physician if the area of your back where the needle was inserted starts bleeding. Also, if you feel any numbness or tingling in your lower extremities, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Caffeine will help relieve headaches after a lumbar puncture.
Caffeine will help relieve headaches after a lumbar puncture.

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