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.