A lumbar puncture is generally a safe procedure.
In some cases, a leak of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may develop after a lumbar
puncture. Symptoms of this problem are a headache that does not go away after 1
to 2 days. A CSF leak can be treated with a blood "patch," in which the
person's own blood is injected into the area where the leak is occurring in
order to seal the leak.
Some people (10% to 25%) develop a headache after having a lumbar
puncture. Of those who do get headaches, only about half report that they are
severe. These headaches may last up to 48 hours and then go away on their own. Pain
medicine does not help control the headache, but lying flat in bed for several
hours after the procedure may help the headache.
About 1 in 1,000 people who have a lumbar
puncture have a minor nerve injury. This heals on its own with time. There is
also a small chance of infection of the CSF (meningitis), bleeding inside the
spinal canal, or damage to the cartilage between the vertebrae. Your doctor
will talk with you about these risks.
People who have bleeding
problems and those who are taking blood-thinning medicine (such as warfarin or
heparin) have a higher chance of bleeding after the procedure. A lumbar
puncture may not be done unless it is needed for a life-threatening
A lumbar puncture may cause serious problems for people
who have high pressure in the brain caused by a tumor, a pocket of infection in
the brain (abscess), or major bleeding inside the brain. Your
doctor will check your nervous system, spinal cord and brain before doing a
lumbar puncture. In some cases, a
computed tomography (CT) scan or
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be done
before the lumbar puncture to know that it is safe to do the puncture.
After the procedure
Call your doctor immediately
if you have:
- Chills or a fever.
- A stiff neck.
This may be a sign of a developing infection.
- Any drainage or
bleeding from the puncture site.
- A severe
- Any numbness or loss of strength below the puncture