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A spinal tap is a way to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid that is around your brain and spinal cord. A doctor first finds the best place to insert the needle and sterilizes the site. He or she will numb the site with lidocaine and place a needle into the lower spine. The doctor removes a sample of spinal fluid and sends it to a lab for analysis.
What the Test Shows
A spinal tap can test for:
- Bleeding conditions
- Pressure around the brain and spinal cord
The fluid may reveal a high white blood count, which means the body is fighting an infection. If cerebrospinal fluid contains blood, that means there is bleeding somewhere inside the body.
Having a spinal tap may feel uncomfortable, mostly because staying still is very important. There is no recovery time necessary.