Lumbar Puncture in Adults

A lumbar puncture – spinal tap - is the taking of a small amount of fluid from the spine with a small needle. The fluid is called CSF and is sent to a laboratory to be checked.

You must rest and be quiet for at least a day.

Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day for 2 days.

Keep the area where the needle went in clean and dry for 24 hours. You can shower then. Use a bandaid for 2 more days.

Contact your doctor if you are not getting better.

Return to the hospital:

  • if you get a new fever (temperature greater than 101 F. or 38.5 C.).
  • if you have a severe headache that does not get better if you lie down.
  • if your headache lasts longer than 24 hours.
  • if you get severe back pain.
  • if you have any numbness or tingling in your legs.
  • if there is more than slight bleeding from the needle site.
  • if there is spreading redness or increasing pain around the needle site.


©2003 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ottawa