RisksBy Mayo Clinic staff
Though lumbar puncture is generally recognized as safe, it does carry some risks. These include:
- Post-lumbar puncture headache. About 40 percent of people who have undergone a lumbar puncture develop a headache afterward due to a leak of fluid into nearby tissues. The headache typically starts several hours up to two days after the procedure and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Post-lumbar puncture headaches can last from a few hours to a week or more.
- Back discomfort or pain. You may feel pain or tenderness in your lower back after the procedure. The pain might radiate down the back of your legs.
- Bleeding. Bleeding may occur near the puncture site or, rarely, into the epidural space.
- Brainstem herniation. Increased pressure within the skull (intracranial), due to a brain tumor or other space-occupying lesion, can lead to compression of the brainstem after a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is removed. A computerized tomography (CT) scan or MRI prior to a lumbar puncture can be obtained to determine if there is evidence of increased intracranial pressure. This complication is uncommon.
- Lumbar puncture. Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=SpinalTap. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- CSF Analysis. Lab Tests Online. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/csf/csf-exams. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- Myelography. Radiology Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=myelography. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- Lumbar puncture (Taking a sample of fluid from around the spinal cord). American Thoracic Society. http://www.thoracic.org/clinical/critical-care/patient-information/icu-devices-and-procedures/lumbar-puncture-taking-a-sample-of-fluid-from-around-the-spinal-cord.php. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- Lavi R, et al. Lumbar puncture: It's time to change the needle. European Neurology. 2010;64:108.
- Alvero R, et al. Inpatient medicine. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2012: 5 Books in 1. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05611-3..00119-1--s1055&isbn=978-0-323-05611-3&sid=1244006461&uniqId=307334494-8#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05611-3..00119-1--s1060. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Dec. 10, 2011.
- Central nervous system infections. In: Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00107-9--s0125&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&sid=1243990324&uniqId=307334494-5#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..00107-9--s0145. Accessed Dec. 7, 2011.
- Swanson JW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 14, 2011.