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Readers Respond: Experience with lumbar punctures and advice for others

Responses: 139


Updated July 30, 2009


As I was hesitant to have the LP done - it was performed by my neurologist. Although he did miss three times it was not painful as people made me believe. And the clue to not getting the headache - lay down for the amount of time your dr tells you and you should not experience it Not that is is something I would want to routinely go through - but a positive attitude and tell yourself it has to be done -to confirm a diagnosis then just get it over with, also a mild sedative prior to the procedure, have confidence in whoever is performing the LP but most important adhering to the directions to lie flat on your back will ensure you will not get that dreaded headache. Overall it was not as bad as people would make you believe.
—Guest Debbie S

Stuck 6 times

I just had my 1st one yesterday. I was told to drink plenty of fluids(with caffine)...Needless to say..I am still awake @ 3:30am .. But here's the kicker. I went in...The Doc had me lie over on the bed.. I was 2nd for the Dr. but he had problems getting my needle in. His 1st & last went without a hitch for him. After he stuck me for the fifth(5th) time, he ws ready to give up & have the LP done with flouroscopy(radioligy) so the Doc could see the needle & such. I suggested to him to let me ball up in the "Fetal Possition" & it worked the very 1st time. I am also in pain in my hip still with a mild headache(so glad it isn't a migrane at this point). But I have taken thus far: 4 Loratabs @ 7.5,& 1 flexaril.. Yet still up & hurting. I hope not to get another one any time soon. But will if he says it is a necessity. I can guarrentee you it will be done via flouroscopy! I am not the kind of person who hates needles @ all.But I might be the next time. Just remember to get plenty to drink

lumbar puncture

I think one of the most difficult procedures we with MS must undergo is an LP (lumbar puncture). Necessary they may be, but fear also plays a huge factor in how well you may or may not respond. As a nurse, I thought it would be EZ, but I did feel the fear, first. The newest concept is to have the patient sit up, in a forward leaning position, rather than lying on their side. It always helps to drink plenty of fluids, and then make sure you visit the BR first, to be sure you are empty and relaxing. Breathe through your mouth, working on relaxing your thoughts. It isn't easy, but it can be done. TALK to the MD doing the procedure, and if you have questions, make sure you ask and have answers before they begin. I have had about 4 LP's now, and no longer fear them. It is a question of how cooperative you can be, by strictly following post procedure instructions to avoid sudden movement, or to walk without assistance. RELAXATION DOES WORK. IMHO. kattface
—Guest kattface

Lumbar Punch no 2

I had my first lumbar punch in 2007 to confirm MS, which i do have. i had the proceedure on the wednesday and was told i would be ok within a couple of days, wrong, i was flying to Dominican Republic onthe Tuesday and felt so unwell i had to cancel my holiday. My headache was so bad i thought my head was going to split open, this went on for 3 weeks and i was bed ridden the whole time. I have just had another LP 2 days ago as i suffered severe pains in my head and was told i had a suspected bleed onthe brain. The lumbar confirmed no bleed but 2 days later i am still in bed with a headache, not as bad as before but bad enough to put me flat on my back in bed. LP is not a proceedure you should take lightly. be prepared for days of bedrest.
—Guest Yvonne

bad as I feared..but recoverd quickly

I had a lumbar puncture on Dec 17th to check for MS (I do have it). The proceedure was as bad as I was afraid of... hurt like the dickens when they did the proceedure and laying flat in the hospital bed for 6 hours after absolutly KILLED me. (back ached so bad I was almost in tears) Went home and stayed in bed for 18 more hrs. Never got the headache...and two days later went away on vacation. Two days after that I was skiing. (One hour after starting to ski.. I STOPPED!) My legs hurt so bad I couldn't ski the rest of the week. :( Doctor said I'll have to have an MRI every six months....Hope I NEVER have to have another lumbar puncture!

Guess I have 2 get another blood patch

I had HORRIBLE headaches after my Spinal Tap, that I thought that I would just let get better on their own. 3 weeks later, I went in for a blood patch!!! I decided to let Christmas pass, and yet another 2 weeks ...but THIS IS THE WORST PAIN ...ever {& I've suffered from 24/7 nerve pain in both of my feet & legs for over 8 years! I have also had 3 children ...all naturally ...with no yelling & no crying!!! These headaches are soooo bad though
—Guest Julie V

Lp not bad at all

I didn't feel a thing my neuro recommended drinking drinks with lots of caffeine and lots of fluids to avoid headaches. He also said that if a headaches becomes extremely strong to go to the er. He could perform a procedure to stop the the pain. I must say that I never got the headaches.
—Guest Blanca

spinal tap experience

they used flouroscopy on me and could not remove any .anyone else with similar results
—Guest pat

I could not let them do it

Back in 1997 i was due to have an lp as part of my diagnosis for ms but told my consultant i was too scared to go through with it, so he said to help me he would prescribe 2 valium to be taken the night before to help me sleep and another 2 to be taken at home before i went to the hospital for the lp. When i arrived at the ward for them to start the test i told the doctor that far from being relaxed i had not slept at all the night before and the dose taken earlier that morning had no effect either. So i was given another 2 valium and told to wait another hour which i did. They came to see if i could allow them to do the test and again the drug had not touched me, so another 2 valium were taken and another hour went by and still they had no effect. The doctor decided that under the circumstances i would not be able to have the lp but i would have to stay at hospital all day in case the valium kicked in once i had left and i could have collapsed! An mri confirmed i had ms anyway!


I had my diagnostic LP without local, and if you have a good neurologist, it is FINE
—Guest Trish

Lumbar puncture....

The first LP was a horrible experience. It was done to make sure i had Meningitis.I'm still not sure what the doctor was thinking.He struck me in one nerve which left my whole body shivering.I still continued having my headache for 3 days. 6yrs later,i was diagnosed with MS and had to go thru the same procedure once again which was not so painful. But every winter where LP was done hurts due to cold.
—Guest Som

Get an experienced doctor!

My first and only experience with a LP was 16 years ago. An emergency room doctor finally accomplished the procedure after more than 2 hours of trying. I had a hint there may be a problem when I caught him reading the information on the top of the package before starting. I inquired if another doctor , with more experience, was available. He told me to just relax, he had not done this for sometime but felt very confident in his ability to do it. I was informed that I was having a complete neurological breakdown and it must be done. I felt I had no choice. After numerous tries. it was finally done. My back was numbed for the LP but I felt the pressure and the needle moving around with every try. I also had a terrible headache that las for a week, also MS confirmed. Two years later my son (only 6) had systems of Meningitis. The doctor insisted on doing a Lp. He was put into a light sleep for the procedure that only took less than 10 minutes. Different doctor, Better outcome.

lumbar punctures

I've had 2 for CFS cultures, one by a neurologist professor in 1985, somewhat uncomfortable and another at Mayo Clinic in 1988 by an RN who knew how to do that much better. After both I laid down and did no unnecessary walking, had someone drive me home, 3 hours away. At Mayo I had a hotel room to rest. I would suggest anyone needing the test to get a prescription for pain, Tylenol #3 is my choice. I've had migraines for 30 years with a gap of 20 years of none, started again 18 months ago and MRI showed 2 small spots (MS lesion or strokes?) and one dark lesion. My VA neurologists allow me to have pain prescriptions for daily mild and on occasion a mean migraine. The VA prescribed Butalbital 50 mg with Tylenol 325 mg and caffeine 50 mg, only 10 a month for those and use Tylenol #3 of 30 tablets lasting me for 6 months. I suggest anyone with MS or migraines to demand pain meds or change your doctor. For the last 40 years I 've had MS symptoms for PPMS.
—Guest Bill McGraw

no problem for me

My neuro told me to lay down for several hours right after...and, being the compliant type, I did. No headache or any problem!
—Guest Bbabbaloo

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

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