Lumbar punctures for children

Nurse putting a lumbar puncture needle into a child's back

This test collects a sample of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

A lumbar puncture is used to diagnose, prevent or treat disease. Sometimes a lumbar puncture is used to inject anaesthetic medications or chemotherapy drugs into the cerebrospinal fluid.

Before the test
Your child will have a general anaesthetic before the test, so they will need to fast (not eat or drink) for a time beforehand.

During the test
Your child will be asleep and on their side with their knees curled up under their chest for the procedure.
The CSF sample will be sent to be examined in a laboratory.

Does it hurt?
Your child will be asleep so they won’t feel anything during the test.

How long does it take?
About 30 minutes.

After the test
Your child will be encouraged to lie flat for about an hour afterwards and to drink plenty of fluids for a day or two. This is to try to prevent side-effects such as headaches and leaking of fluid.

Tell your hospital if headaches or vomiting last for more than a couple of days. 

For more information

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1800 200 700

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