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Readers Respond: Experience with lumbar punctures and advice for others

Responses: 125


Updated July 30, 2009

lumbar puncture

I had my lumbar puncture done about 10 years ago in a public hospital. I was given the local as it began but the learning doctor couldnt find the right area and by the time the doctor residing over him had shown him where to try again in my spine, the local had began to wear off and i was feeling it and my back had begun to look like a track leading up my back. But that wasnt the worst it was the crippling headache i suffered for a week after this experience. I could not lift my head off the pillow to get anywhere near a doctor. Needless to say I would never have another one! Ange


I had a LP 2 wks. ago. Numbing it was the only pain 5/10 and quick. Drank lots and lots of coffee and water (steady for 24 hours after). Reclined the seat in the car on the 45 minute ride home. Immediately went 2 bed for 24 hrs with a pile of movies. I've had a headache for 14 mnths now and didn't notice any change after the LP. The only reaction was during the night I got up to use the lav, blacked out 3 times, fell twice. Last time my legs wouldn't work and my husband picked me up and put me back in bed. I was very nauseous just once when I went to the lav--5 min. Make sure your doctor is going to use 1) a tilt table or sits you upright 2) x-ray guidance 3) Is not planning on aspiration to pull the fluid out. Gravity should be doing the work. Make sure you have someone to drive you home. Lay the seat back on the way home. Drink lots of coffee or caffeinated beverage & water IMMEDIATELY after. Caffeine will act like radiator 'stop leak' to plug the hole. Lay down for at least 24 hrs.

lumbar puncture

I had an LP done about 3 yrs ago. The Dr. was an idiot, but the ezperience was not bad. Had a slight headache for a couple days, went right back to work that day. The Dr. told me nothing about probable pain or headache, just handed me 2 vials of spinal fluid to take to the lab. When I say handed me vials, thats it, he handed me 2 vials, no bag or anything just the vials. The lab freaked out when I tried to hand them the vials and made me put them in a hasordous human material bag. But the experience was not bad as far as pain. Just a non-caring MD
—Guest susan

Two so far and no big deal

I've had two, eight years apart. I'm in Ireland, and the protocol round here is that you lie flat without moving for a few hours afterwards, to minimise headache, and I had no headache at any time from either LP. On both occasions I did ask for the procedure to be done by a senior doctor - I didn't want someone doing one of their practice dozen LPs on me. Definitely worth insisting on an old hand! Not painful at all during it, just a brief sting at the start when the needle goes in. Psychologically it is not the most fun thing to envisage beforehand, so I asked for a nurse to hold my hand, and for me this helped enormously. The whole thing takes maybe 2 minutes maximum. My lower back ached a bit for a few days a week later, but no big deal, unless you were planning on backpacking just then.... It is not half as bad as the associations that seem to hang round the dread words "lumbar puncture" - and I am no heroine.
—Guest Hazel

The Tap

I thought you had to have a tap to confirm the diagnosis. I delayed the procedure out of the usual fears. But when I had it done at Columbia Presbyterian it was like a protracted blood drawing. No biggie. I think it is important to read and follow the directions particularly the part about staying still for a day afterwards. The people who I know had problems were unable to stay still due to children jobs etc. Plan to stay still for at least 12 hours after. Not easy but it worked for me. Again I thought this test was mandatory for the confirmation of our disease?
—Guest Jack

lumbar puncture

I had my lumbar puncture done at Mayos. I was taken to a small cot by a nurse who had me lie on my side. she then pulled out my shirt tail and felt my back. I asked her if she'd ever done that before. She said "yes, about 4000 times" and kept feeling. I then said when are you going to do it? She said "it's all done". She then told me to lie still. In a half hour she said I was good to go which I did . My wife and I went out and had a nice dinner. Never any pain or discomfort of any kind thereafter.
—Guest linbert

lumbar puncture was a breeze for me...

I had a lp about 1 1/2 yrs ago, at our local arizona Radiology LTD...and it was an easy appt., fairly quick, and no pain. they did excellent work on me, and was breeze. No headacke after, but I did 'recline' for the rest of the day, as told, was nice.
—Guest kathy

LP Headaches 2 weeks later

I have had 2 LP's in the last 2 years or so, and on the last one, I was completely fine for about 2 weeks, moving around, being normal, then all of a sudden the worse headache ever, if I so much as drizzled water into my mouth it came back up. I spent a week going to ER's and being turned away with the cause being from a "chronic injury- herniated c-disks). Finally on the 3rd time of being on my death bed, a doctor goes, oh, I bet it's an LP leak. They did a blood patch and within 30 min I was perfect, morphine helped. I had another LP 2 weeks ago, and yesterday, intense tiredness, headache and nausea. So it looks like the same thing. Now, before I scare anyone off, I dod have degenerative disk disorder, and other bits of my body are degenerating (knee has no cartilage, leg vascular caves in under the pressure of a sock at 3- Y/O), haven't dx'd the disorder, but could be why. Just want people to know it is possible to appear 2 weeks later. As far as the procedures, don't feel a thing.
—Guest Captain-Slow

lumbar punctures

Awful if is not really need it don't do it the headache after having that done is awful cuz u just don't get headache neck pain too
—Guest christina

What could one do

I have been having headakes for about 2 weeks, when I went to my eye care doctor because my eyes were begining to hurt. He told me that my optical nerve looked swollen and sent me to the E.R. Little did i know what i was in for. They did a scan of my head and never once gave me pain medication. They later came in to do a "Spinal tap". Why did I let them do it. The doctor stick me with the needle more than 10 times to find the right spot. I was only left with a big back ake. Only to see if i had alot of brain liguid cousing presure in my head. It was the most tramatic experience of my life. I only hope i dont get a headeke like the ones i am reading about. Be safe. If you do not need one just say so to the doctor and put a stop to it. So you wont be pock at like me. over 10 times. Not to happy about it.
—Guest sad me

Can be fine or awful

I assumed having had 2 epidurals when my children were born that I knew what I was in for...sort of a strange tingly sensation, but no real pain. Boy was I shocked when my neuro was apparently not very skilled in the use of lidocaine and the needle insertion really hurt. Then after two tries at getting fluid, which included awful zapping pain and involuntary movement in my legs, I told him he wasn't allowed to try again. They moved me to radiology and did the procedure under x-ray with appropriate local anesthesia. That procedure was a piece of cake. I did have an awful spinal headache the next day, but it subsided after a nap and as long as I remained laying down, which was easy as I was admitted to the hospital for a course of solumedrol for possible MS. Bottom line -- make sure the dr performing the procedure is very confident that he can get to the right spot easily or ask to have it done by a radiologist!
—Guest KDM

Severe Headaches and Lumber Punture

A few nights back I went into the er with an excruciating head ached. I have had migraines for the past thirty Plus years, but this pain felt different. My head felt like pressure and so much pain with a still spine and aching joints. After a CAT Scan they gave me the option of a Spinal Tap. I just wanted to get rid of this pain and agreed. The puncture was no big deal. But for two days now I have been having the most severe head pain in my life. My dr refuses to treat it saying it's not related to the Puncture but a rebound headache? This is not a migraine with a rebound. I am in so much pain that I don't think I can take another few days. Since the Lumbar puncture my head ache is worse and I can't see out of one eye, It's all blurry and won't forcus. What should I do?

lumbar puncture number 7 or is it 8????

Just letting you all know that it doesnt matter if its your first or 21st sometimes you get the post lp headache sometimes you dont. i had my first lp 10yrs ago after which i got the post lp headache since then i have had several others and not had any sign of headache until the most recent one. I have had this headache for 6 days now with no signs of relief any time soon see what the neuro decides to do after i phone him tommorrow the 7th day of agony. Good luck to anyone who needs this procedure hope you are one of the lucky ones i have read about
—Guest kelly

Lumber Puncture Nightmare

Hi All, Heres my Lumber Puncture nightmare... I had a headache one day and despite numerous attempts to relieve the pain with tablets, the haedache went on and on for 6 days actually. I went to see my G.P and after a very brief examination of my eyes and ears he gave me a referral letter to the local hospital.. Hmmmm i was thinking whats all this about.. anyway they examined me again and decided to keep me in, so off i toddled to the ward and took my bed for the night with only 2 paracetemol issued by the nurse. Anyway i was then taken for a CAT Scan and 2 hours later came the LUUUUUMBERRRRR Puncture.. At the end of the tests (5 samples) they found a slight problem with one of them to which i have to see neuro surgeon in 4 weeks so god only knows whats causing my headaches... As a result my headaches are 50 times worse now after the L.P and have been for 9 days now. You name the tablet ive taken them all to no avail... In my opinion an L.P is a total waste of time.....
—Guest Mick

They need to add '11' to the pain scale!

Sure laying down instantly relieves the pain, but, what if you are at an appointment and home is 20 minutes away. Once pain hits 10 you have no choice but to lay down, unless you 'cant' then welcome to 11 pain! Today marks day 6 of the headaches (plus vertigo and ear ringing - the easy part). Bordom from laying around for days and feeling ok before leaving the house led to this story. Seems a blood patch is the cure, although feeling very unlucky being one of 5-30% who get headaches after a LP and part of the elite few who experience them for more than 48 hours, I would rather not author an story about a blood patch horror story. What no article has mentioned is 'are the headaches harmful if you cannot lay down or simply unbearable'.
—Guest Dave

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