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Lumbar Drain Placement


Lumbar drain placement is a procedure to place a small tube in your lower back and into your spinal column to drain or collect cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).


Before your procedure:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

During your procedure:

  • You will lie on your side or sit up. If you are on your side, you will need to bend your knees and move them close to your chest. Your neck should be tucked toward your chest. If you are sitting, you will bend forward with your neck tucked toward your chest. You will be given a shot of numbing medicine and a needle will be put in your lower back. A catheter (small tube) is pushed through the needle into your spinal column. Then the needle is taken out and the catheter stays in.
  • Stitches will be placed in your skin to keep the catheter in place. A bandage will be placed over the area. The catheter will be connected to a container to collect the CSF. The drain will stay in place approximately 5 days, or until your symptoms improve. It will be removed before you leave the hospital.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room.

  • Neurologic exam: Your healthcare provider will do regular neurological exams. This shows healthcare providers how well your brain and nerves work after the procedure. Healthcare providers will check how your eyes react to light. They will also check your memory, strength, and balance.
  • CSF testing: Your healthcare provider will check the amount of CSF in the collection container to see how fast it is draining. They will also check the color and clearness for signs of infection.
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring: Your intracranial pressure (ICP) may be monitored. The ICP is the pressure inside your skull.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to help prevent a headache or to decrease your pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • Activity: Tell your healthcare provider before you sit up or walk so that they can temporarily stop the drain. Your healthcare provider may tell you not to cough, sneeze, or strain because this can increase the drainage of the CSF. Do not adjust the head of the bed because this can also affect the drainage.


  • You may get a headache that gets worse when you sit or stand. There may be damage to your nerves or spine. You could have bleeding into your brain or spinal column and you may need surgery to treat it. You may get an infection at the incision site or a more serious infection, such as meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Your brain could herniate (drop downward), which can lead to severe brain damage and be life-threatening.
  • Without treatment, your signs and symptoms may get worse and may become life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.