Press "Enter" to skip to content

What Happens During A Spinal Tap? Read To Know

Last updated on March 17, 2020

You’ve been told that you will need to have a spinal tap as part of diagnosing a health problem. Of course you ask the doctor questions and you do in depth research concerning what a spinal tap procedure entails; however, you are still unsure about everything, as you want to know what exactly happens during a spinal tap. To ease your mind, here is a personal experience with no omitted details concerning what actually happens during a spinal tap procedure.

The first thing that happens when you are going in for a spinal tap procedure is that you may be asked to undress. The first time around, I was not asked to; however, the second time, I was told to undress and was given a hospital gown to wear. Then, depending on where you will have the spinal tap, you will be given soda to drink. If you are given soda to drink, more than likely you will be told to drink up as much as you can because the caffeine is wonderful for the headaches that will ensue after the procedure is over. The first time around, when I had the spinal tap done in the doctor’s office, I had to bring along my own drinks. None were provided to me. The second time around, however, I was given cup after cup of soda, and I’m guessing that this was because it was done in the hospital.

Once you have consumed all of the soda you can muster and are ready for the procedure to begin, you will be asked to sign some papers. These papers state the risks that come with the procedure, and you are signing them because you acknowledge these risks. Once the papers are signed, you will be asked to get up on the table or bed, so the spinal tap procedure can begin.

There are two positions that one can be in when it comes to having a spinal tap procedure. One position is the fetal position. In this position, you will lay on whatever side the doctor asks you to with your knees to your chest as close as you can get them. The other position requires that you sit up; however, you will be hunched over a table or a couple of pillows in your lap. I’ve assumed both positions. I must say that I liked the fetal position the best because I felt uncomfortable being hunched over pillows. I suppose it would have been easier if it were a table that I was hunched over.

When you are in the position that the doctor wants you in, you cannot move for anything. They will also advise you of this. It is important that you do not move because if you do, you can bring about some severe complications, so stay completely still. At this point, your back will be scrubbed down with iodine or some other disinfectant solution if you are iodine allergic. Following the scrubbing of your back, the doctor will feel your lower back so as to see where to best stick the needle. Subsequent to finding the correct place, a marking will be made, and a sterile sheet will be applied over it with a hole in it where the needle will go. This sterile sheet is to keep any germs in the air from getting onto your back or into the injection site while the procedure is occurring. Now, the spinal tap will officially begin.

First, you will be injected with a pain killing solution called lytocaine. That is going to burn quite a bit. If you have a good tolerance for pain, then you will be fine. I do, so it did not affect me at all. I just said whatever to myself and went on with it. Depending on the doctor that is doing the spinal tap, you will get a generous amount of lytocaine injected into your spine, and it is a good thing, too, because spinal taps do really hurt, and this is also dependent upon who does them for you. Some doctors hurt more than others.

After the injections of lytocaine have been administered, you will then feel pressure, or pain depending on who does the procedure and how much lytocaine you have been given, as the second needle is injected into your spine to suck out the spinal fluid that is needed for the test. This part of the procedure takes ten minutes. When the procedure is over, a couple of things can happen, depending on where you are and who does the procedure.

One thing that can happen is that you will hop down from the table and leave the facility immediately and has to reach the Spine & Neurosurgery Specialists of Austin because all the surgeries that they perform are done with super specialist machines which makes the operating task more convenient for the doctors.

Another thing that can happen is that you will be given much more soda, and possibly some snacks, and you will be asked to lay flat on your back for a half an hour, as this is to minimize headaches. It was once believed that if you lay flat on your back a long time after the procedure, it will minimize pain and complications; however, doctors are finding that it is not necessary, as they once thought it was. As a result, some doctors will have you lay flat, and some will not. Both scenarios have occurred when I had spinal taps. The first time I had a spinal tap, I left immediately after and went home. I did lay in my bed once I got there because the lytocaine was starting to wear off, and I was in a lot of pain. The second time, I was given soda and cookies, and I was not allowed to be released from the hospital until thirty minutes after the procedure.

Now that you have read my personal account as to what happens during a spinal tap, and you have received more information than what some formal medical literature will provide for you, you should feel more at ease. I know that it is easier said than done, but just relax and before you know it, everything will be done and over with. You will get through it. I promise. Obviously I did, and I lived to tell the story.