Lumbar puncture

Woman in hospital

This test collects cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which floats around the brain and spinal cord. The fluid can be tested to see if there are any cancer cells in the fluid.

You will be asked to lie down on a couch on your side with your knees curled up under your chest or in a sitting position. The doctor doing the procedure will tell you which position they want you to be in.

The doctor will inject local anaesthetic into the lower part of your back. A thin needle will then be put into the space around your spinal cord and a small amount of spinal fluid withdrawn. For some cancers, chemotherapy can be given into the spinal fluid after the sample has been removed.

Does it hurt?

You will need to remain still during the test, and may feel some discomfort as the needle goes in. There might also be some pain, although the anaesthetic usually helps.

How long does it take?

About 30 minutes.

After the test

You will not be allowed to sit up or get out of bed for 1–2 hours afterwards. This is to prevent headaches. You will also be advised to drink plenty of fluids to reduce the risk of headaches.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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