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Lumbar Puncture In Children


Lumbar puncture (LP) is a procedure in which a needle is inserted in your child's back and into his spinal canal. This may be done to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to check for an infection, inflammation, bleeding, or other conditions that affect the brain. CSF is a clear, protective fluid that flows around the brain and inside the spinal canal. LP may also be done to remove CSF and reduce pressure in the brain.


Before your child's procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your child's procedure.
  • Your child may need to have blood tests, x-rays, or other tests. Brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, may also be done. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that your child may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Tell healthcare providers if your child is taking any medicine that may make him more likely to bleed. These include aspirin, clot busters, or blood thinners. If your child is taking any of these medicines, he should not have a lumbar puncture.
  • Tell healthcare providers if your child has any allergies. This includes an allergy to a cleansing solution, such as iodine, or any numbing medicine.
  • Tell healthcare providers if your child has a blood disorder or has had a bleeding problem in the past.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal piece of paper (consent form). It gives your child's healthcare provider permission to do the procedure. Before giving your consent, make sure all your questions have been answered so that you understand what may happen.


What will happen:

  • If your child is an infant or young child, he may be held by a healthcare provider during the LP. This is to make sure that he is in the correct position. If your child is older, he will be asked to lie on his side. His knees will need to be bent and drawn close to his chest. His neck will also be tucked toward his chest. He may be given medicine to help him relax or make him drowsy. Your child's lower back will be cleaned, and he may be given one or more shots of numbing medicine. A needle will be inserted between the vertebrae (spine) of his lower back. Your child may feel some pushing or discomfort as the needle enters his back.
  • If your child is old enough, he should tell his healthcare provider if he has pain that does not stop within a few seconds. His healthcare provider may need to pull out, reinsert, or change the position of the needle. Your child's healthcare provider may take readings of your child's CSF pressure. This will be done by connecting a measuring device to the needle. After the pressure is measured, the device will be removed and CSF will be allowed to flow out of the needle. Samples of your child's CSF may be taken. The needle will then be taken out and a bandage placed over the area.

After your child's procedure:

Your child will need to lie flat in bed until your child's healthcare provider says it is okay for him to get up. When healthcare providers see that your child is okay, he may be allowed to go home. If healthcare providers want your child to stay in the hospital, he will be taken back to his hospital room. Your child may need to drink more liquids than usual after the LP, or he may need fluids through an IV.


  • You or your child cannot make it to his appointment on time.
  • Your child is irritable and crying more than usual.
  • Your child has a skin infection or a wound near the area where the LP will be done.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's LP.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has shortness of breath or his heart is beating faster than normal.


Your child may have a headache that gets worse when he sits or stands. He may have neck or back pain, feel sick to his stomach, or vomit. He may have blurred or double vision, dizziness, and ringing in his ears. There may be bleeding, infection, or injury to a disk in his spine. Spinal fluid may leak from the puncture site. Your child's nerves or spinal cord may be damaged. Patients who have blood disorders or who are taking certain medicines are at a higher risk of problems.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Further information

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