What Is a Lumbar Puncture? What is a Spinal Tap?

by | Feb 27, 2023 | Rally Blog, What Is

It’s scary enough to have your child diagnosed with cancer. But on top of that you hear all these new words and terms, which can be overwhelming, such as lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

A lumbar procedure is the same thing as a spinal tap. It is a commonly performed procedure to diagnose and manage a variety of diseases including cancer. It is an invasive procedure used to collect the cerebral fluid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord.

A lumbar puncture/spinal tap may also be done to measure the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid or to inject medicine, including chemotherapy, directly into the spinal cord and central nervous system.

To prepare your child for a lumbar puncture/spinal tap, tell your child what to expect in the hospital and during the procedure. Ask your child’s healthcare team if you can stay with your child during the procedure, and if it’s OK to bring a favorite toy for comfort.

For a lumbar puncture/spinal tap:

  • Your child will be in a hospital gown and lies on a hospital bed.
  • If needed, anesthesia will be applied, and vitals monitored.
  • If awake, your child will be asked to roll up into a tight ball and remain still.
  • Medical staff will sterilize and apply topical medication to numb the injection area.
  • A hollow needle will be used to collect cerebrospinal from the spinal canal. Your child will need to remain still.
  • If medicine needs to be administered, it will be injected through the same needle.
  • After removing the needle, the area is cleaned and bandaged.
  • Your child will need to lie still and rest after the lumbar puncture. Some may have a headache afterwards.

Any medical procedure, especially when done to your child, may seem scary. That’s why we want to help answer any questions you may have. Rally On!


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