Also called a lumbar puncture, a spinal tap is a medical procedure used to diagnose infections like meningitis, diseases like multiple sclerosis, some types of cancer and hemorrhagic strokes. While these tests are useful tools for physicians, they pose a threat for side effects in some patients.
During a spinal tap, a doctor administers anesthetic before inserting a needle syringe into your spine. The doctor removes some of your spinal fluid and sends the sample to be analyzed.
Common Side Effects
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of patients develop headaches following a spinal tap due to changes in pressure along the spine caused by the procedure, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some people experience pain during the procedure, as well as fatigue or a backache for 24 hours after the spinal tap.
Bleeding and Infection
Rarely, the removal of the needle causes bleeding into the spinal fluid that is difficult to control. An even rarer complication is a bacterial infection at the site of needle-entry, causing redness, irritation and fever.
Doctors can damage the nerves along the spine while inserting the needle, causing pain or numbness. Another rare risk of spinal taps is brain damage, which is most common in patients already suffering from increased pressure inside the skull.
For the first day after the procedure, avoid strenuous exercise and drink 2.5 qt. of water to minimize any inflammation an the site of the procedure. Lying down and caffeinated beverages provide relief from headaches caused by spinal taps.