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Procedures

Lumbar Puncture

What Is a Lumbar Puncture?

A lumbar puncture is a minimally invasive procedure that uses image guidance to obtain small amounts of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid in the spinal canal, also known as CSF) for examination and diagnosis. Other names for a lumbar puncture (LP) include spinal tap, spinal puncture, and thecal puncture.

The CSF obtained from a lumbar puncture can be used to diagnose many diseases affecting the nervous system, including: bleeding around the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage); increased intracranial pressure; inflammation of the brain, spinal cord, or adjacent tissues (encephalitis or meningitis); tumors of the brain or spinal cord; and diseases of the immune system such as multiple sclerosis.

Lumbar punctures are also occasionally performed in order to treat diseases by injection of antibiotics, cancer drugs, or anesthetic agents into the spinal fluid. In some cases, a lumbar puncture may be performed to remove CSF to decrease the pressure of spinal fluid.

How Should I Prepare?

You will be asked not to eat for 2 hours prior to the procedure; water and clear liquids are OK.
If you are taking prescribed anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as Coumadin or Plavix, you should ask your physician for instructions prior to the procedure. Patients should not take over-the-counter aspirin or aspirin-containing medications for at least 5 days prior to their procedure. Please consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before stopping ANY medications.

Please arrive for your procedure with a responsible adult who can drive you home.

What Should I Expect?

After you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to a procedure room, where you will be asked to change into a patient gown. You will be positioned on an exam table, and fluoroscopy (“real-time” X-ray) will be used to determine the most appropriate needle entry site. The radiologist will clean the overlying skin, and a small amount of local anesthetic (lidocaine) will be injected with a small needle. You will feel a tiny pinch similar to a pinprick while the anesthetic is injected.

After the area becomes numb, the radiologist will insert a needle into the spinal canal while observing under fluoroscopy to ensure proper placement. After the needle has been properly positioned, a sample of your spinal fluid will be collected and sent to a lab for analysis, and the needle will be removed. A bandage will be placed over the insertion site, and you will be transported to the recovery area.

After being monitored for a short time, you will be released with discharge instructions. The entire procedure usually takes about 30-45 minutes.

For your safety and the protection of others, we do not allow anyone other than patients in our exam rooms.

Are There Potential Side Effects or Complications?

Significant complications related to a lumbar puncture are very uncommon. The primary risks associated with this procedure include bleeding and infection.

The most common side effect after a lumbar puncture is a spinal headache, in which leakage of spinal fluid into the surrounding tissues produces a severe headache that typically worsens with standing. Spinal headaches usually resolve on their own, but an additional procedure called an epidural blood patch may be required to stop the leakage of spinal fluid and relieve the symptoms.

Most lumbar punctures are very well tolerated, with minimal discomfort afterwards that is usually easily controlled with non-prescription pain medication. You may apply ice to the needle insertion site to reduce swelling if necessary. Symptoms usually disappear within 48 hours; contact your physician or healthcare provider if they persist for more than two days.

How Do I Get the Results?

Your doctor or healthcare provider will receive separate reports from the radiologist and the laboratory where the fluid sample was sent for analysis. After receiving these reports, your doctor or healthcare provider will be able to discuss the results with you.

Reports are also available on the MyRAD Patient Portal

Patient Education Video

Interventional Radiology Team

Boyd C. Ashdown, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Interventional Neuroradiology, Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.S. – University of Wyoming, 1985
    M.D. – University of Utah, 1989
  • Internship:
    General Surgery, St. Joseph Hospital (Denver), 1989-1990
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, Duke University, 1990-1994
  • Fellowship:
    Vascular/Interventional Radiology, University of Washington, 1994-1995
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 1994; CAQ Neuroradiology 1999, 2009

With Radiology Ltd. since 1995

Bradley J. Bohnert, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.S. – Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, California), 1988
    M.D. – University of California at Los Angeles, 1993
    M.B.A. – George Washington University (Washington, DC), 2012
  • Internship:
    Internal Medicine, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center (Phoenix), 1993-1994
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, University of Colorado, 1994-1998
  • Fellowship:
    Neuroradiology, Barrow Neurological Institute, 1998-2000
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 1998; CAQ Neuroradiology 2000, 2010

Vice Chairman, Radiology Ltd.
With Radiology Ltd. since 2000

Taylor P. Chen, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.S. – University of California at Los Angeles, 1992
    M.D. – University of Southern California, 1996
  • Internship:
    Internal Medicine, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, 1996-1997
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, Duke University, 1997-2001
  • Fellowship:
    Neuroradiology, Barrow Neurological Institute, 2001-2003
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 2001

With Radiology Ltd. since 2003

David T. Jeck, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Interventional Neuroradiology, Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.A. – University of Pennsylvania, 1991
    M.D. – University of Arizona, 1995
  • Internship:
    Transitional, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center (Phoenix), 1995-1996
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (St. Louis), 1996-2000
  • Fellowship:
    Neuroradiology, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (St. Louis), 2000-2002
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 2000; CAQ Neuroradiology 2002, 2012

President and Chairman, Radiology Ltd.
With Radiology Ltd. since 2002

J. Anthony Lee, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.S. – Arizona State University, 1991
    M.D. – University of Texas Southwestern (Dallas), 1996
  • Internship:
    Transitional, Mayo Clinic (Scottsdale, Arizona), 1996-1997
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, Stanford University, 1997-2001
  • Fellowship:
    Neuroradiology, Barrow Neurological Institute, 2001-2003
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 2001

With Radiology Ltd. since 2004

Creed M. Rucker, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    General Radiology, Interventional Neuroradiology, Neuroradiology
  • Education:
    B.S. - University of Arizona, 1995
    M.D. - University of Arizona, 2000
  • Internship:
    General Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2000-2001
  • Residency:
    Nuclear Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2001-2002
    Diagnostic Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, 2002-2005
  • Fellowship:
    Interventional Neuroradiology, Washington University School of Medicine, 2005-2007
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 2006

With Radiology Ltd. since 2015

Meet Amy, Tucson mother of three

Amy met with her doctor to discuss some unusual symptoms she was having. He ordered a full set of tests, including a referral to Radiology Ltd. for a Lumbar Puncture in Tucson. With three small children, Amy didn’t want to be away from her family for long. She was relieved when she learned that the she would be in and out in less than an hour and would have the results in just a few days. Amy said the techs were so friendly and calming that she sent them a card of thanks following the visit.