Factsheet - Lumbar puncture
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Disclaimer: This fact sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.
Your child needs a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. It is not always possible to tell what is wrong with your child, without tests such as this. The lumbar puncture is done to make sure that he/she does not have meningitis (see Meningitis fact sheet), an infection of the lining around the brain. To do the test a doctor inserts a needle in the lower back between the backbones to get a sample of spinal fluid. The results will be available within a few hours.
Your child must lie curled up on their side while being firmly but gently held to make sure he/she does not move. The test is awkward and your child may feel discomfort.
There are very few side effects from a lumbar puncture. The doctor will make sure that it is safe to do the test. If for some reason the doctor decides it is not safe they will not do the test.
The test may have to be done again if:
- the sample of spinal fluid has blood in it
- not enough spinal fluid can be collected.
After the test your child may have a headache or complain of feeling sore where the needle went in. Serious complications such as nerve trauma, infection or pressure effects are very rare. A lumbar puncture is done below where the spinal cord ends, so it is not possible to injure the spinal cord.
Hospitals can be frightening places for children. If a child feels sick or is in pain, it can be upsetting to have nurses and doctors whom they don't know look after them. It is important to stay with your child to look after and comfort them.
If your child asks about the tests being done, reassure them and explain in simple terms what is being done and why. Always tell the truth.
At times it is helpful to tell stories, talk about the family or anything else that may help to take their mind off the procedure. Remain calm and comfort your child, if you get upset so will your child.
The staff are there to help you and your child. If you would like more information please ask the nurse or doctor caring for your child.
- The lumbar puncture is done to make sure that your child does not have meningitis, an infection of the lining around the brain.
- The results will be available within a few hours.
- Stay with your child and comfort them.
|The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Tel: (02) 9845 3585
Fax: (02) 9845 3562
|Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick
Tel: (02) 9382 1688
Fax: (02) 9382 1451
|Kaleidoscope, Hunter Children's Health Network
Tel: (02) 4921 3670
Fax: (02) 4921 3599
& Kaleidoscope, Hunter Children's Health Network - 2005-2009.