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Lumbar Puncture in Children


A lumbar puncture is a procedure used to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear, protective fluid that flows around the brain and inside the spinal canal. A lumbar puncture is usually done to check for an infection, inflammation, bleeding, or other conditions that affect the brain. It may also be done to remove CSF to reduce pressure in the brain.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a severe headache that does not get better after he or she lies down.
  • Your child has vision or hearing problems, such as blurred or double vision, dizziness, or ringing in his or her ears.
  • Your child has nausea, or is vomiting or dizzy.
  • Your young child is irritable and crying more than usual.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a stiff neck or has trouble thinking clearly.
  • Your child's legs, feet, or other parts below the waist feel numb, tingly, or weak.
  • Your child has a severe pain in his or her back or neck.
  • Your child has bleeding or discharge coming from the area where the needle was put into his or her back.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not give your child other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to a healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for a post-lumbar puncture headache:

Your child may develop a headache during the first few hours after the procedure that may last for several days. The headache may be mild to severe and may get worse when your child sits or stands. The following may help ease a post-lumbar puncture headache:

  • Have your child drink more liquid than usual after the lumbar puncture. Ask how much liquid is right for your child. Caffeine may be used to treat a headache. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about giving your child caffeine.
  • Have your child lie down or rest to ease the headache pain.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.