A lumbar puncture is a medical procedure that your doctor has ordered to analyse the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) which surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

The procedure is performed using X-ray or CT guidance, a small needle is placed into the spine. A myelogram is a similar procedure where contrast is injected into the spinal canal and a CT scan is performed afterwards to image the spinal canal.


You will be lying on your side or stomach for the procedure. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic and local anaesthetic injected. The radiologist inserts a very fine needle into the location that your doctor has asked us to inject using an aseptic technique. We use an x-ray or CT machine to guide the placement of the needle safely and accurately into the correct position. A small sample of the CSF will be taken and sent for analysis. After the procedure, we will be instructing you to lie flat to reduce the risk of headache.

Risks / Side Effects

There is a small risk of bleeding and infection, which is uncommon but potentially serious. The other risk is of headache, due to leakage of CSF from the site of the lumbar puncture. Having you lie down for at least a few hours after the procedure helps to minimize this risk.

Before your Scan

Please inform us if you are on medication to thin your blood (eg. Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel). You may need to stop this prior to the procedure after discussion with your doctor.

You will be required to fast for four hours and a short stay hospital admission will be necessary. Occasionally you may require overnight admission.

You will require someone to collect you and take you home after the procedure.


Other Information

Ensure you drink plenty of fluids over the next 2 – 3 days – about 2 litres per day.

You may have Panadol 4 – 6 hourly if you need it over the next 2 days.

No vigorous activity over the next 2-3 days then resume normal activity.

Your headache may increase over the next 2 days as you increase your activity but should start to recede by day 2 – 3.

If you have any concerns about nausea, vomiting, pain at the injection site, tingling in your arms and/or legs, a fever or an increasing headache, notify your referring doctor or call the clinic where the injection was performed immediately.

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