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So Your Doctor Ordered a Lumbar Puncture...

So your doctor ordered a Lumbar Puncture, and you really don’t know what to expect. This is my guide to you from both a nursing standpoint of why we make you go through this, and from a patients point of view of what you are in for!


Ok, in my experience as an MS nurse this is the #1 fear of most MS patients. But information is power and I believe in you, you can do this! Keep in mind this is basically the same procedure as an epidural which women beg for while in labor- except you don’t get the good drugs as a reward!

Nursing Perspective: This is a relatively simple procedure that takes 15-30 minutes to do. During the procedure a needle is inserted between the vertebrae in your lower back and a small sample of Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) is taken. Spinal fluid gives us a lot of information, and specifically for MS it can tell us if you have oligoclonal bands (o-bands) which are present in 90% of MS patients. Additionally, your doctor will test for a variety of diseases and viruses that could cause MS-like symptoms such as lyme disease, or Guillian-Barre syndrome.

What to Expect: You will be asked to lay on your side in the fetal position to make the procedure easier to perform. They inject you with lidocaine to numb up the area and then ideally during the procedure you will feel pressure but no pain. Afterwards you have to lay completely flat with your legs straight for 1-2 hours. Sitting up before then can cause an ugly headache so avoid that at all costs!

Patient Tips & Tricks:

#1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The day before drink a ton of water and a couple of caffeinated beverages- this helps prevent that headache.

#2: Do not sit up! Lay flat for those couple of hours and take it easy the rest of the day.

#3: Avoid aspirin, blood thinners, and alcohol before the procedure. Check with your doctor to see how many days your procedure site requires you stay away from these, and if you need to have bloodwork beforehand.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the “good” websites, beware of random googling! Check out their article on Lumbar Punctures.

For anyone else who has been through a Lumbar Puncture, what was your experience? Share any tips and tricks you may have!

Site content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical treatment or guidance. Always consult a healthcare provider before making medical decisions.

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