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Prepare for Your Lumbar Puncture

A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is a valuable tool for diagnosis and in some cases treatment. It is a procedure used to collect and analyze the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. You are encouraged to speak with the doctor who ordered your lumbar puncture about any questions or concerns you may have.

You will lie on your stomach on the fluoroscopy table (a special type of x-ray). The radiologist will cleanse your low back and inject a numbing medication (this may sting/burn for approximately 30 seconds). Once the needle is in the spinal canal (there may be a feeling of pressure when the needle is inserted), the radiologist will withdraw the appropriate amount of spinal fluid required for lab testing. An opening or closing pressure will be obtained if ordered by your physician. The needle is removed and a band-aid is applied to the area.

The procedure takes approximately 45 minutes. After the procedure is complete, you will be taken back to the nursing area for at least 1 hour of flat bed rest and observation. You will then need to go home and resume strict flat bed rest for a total of 24 hours.


  1. If there is any possibility that you may be pregnant, please inform your doctor and the radiology nurse.
  2. You can expect to be contacted by a nurse to explain preparation instructions 2-5 days before your appointment. Be prepared to share a list of your medications and allergies. If you take any type of blood thinners or anti-coagulants, please contact the nurse at least one week before your appointment (or as soon as you know about the appointment).
  3. The day before the procedure, you need to drink at least 8-10 glasses (64 oz.) of non-caffeinated liquid (e.g. water).
  4. You may have a light breakfast up to 2 hours before the appointment. Do not eat or drink anything for 2 hours prior to your appointment time.
  5. You can expect to be here approximately 2 1/2 hours.
  6. It is required that you have someone to drive you home.
  7. After your driver takes you home, you will need to continue strict flat bed rest for 24 hours.
  8. You will receive additional written and verbal aftercare instruction before you go home.

If you have questions, please ask the doctor who is ordering your exam. If you require more information about the procedure, please contact the MDC radiology nurse at 612-879-1528, Monday through Friday between 7:30am - 4:00pm.

Lumbar Puncture is only available at MDC Minneapolis.