Spinal Tap and CSF Analysis

A spinal tap is a procedure where a small volume of spinal fluid (CSF) is collected and submitted to a laboratory for analysis of protein content, white blood cell count and determination of the types of white blood cells that are present. Spinal fluid is very sensitive for identifying disease in the central nervous system, but is not always very specific to which disease is present.

CSF analysis is used in conjunction with other tests, including MRI, to narrow down the list of possible neurological diseases.  In some cases, CSF will provide a definitive diagnosis (some kinds of cancers and infections). Sometimes we need to run additional tests on the spinal fluid to look for different  infectious diseases.

Spinal taps are done under general anesthesia to keep our patients from moving. Being under anesthesia helps to alleviate any possible pain/discomfort that may be associated with this procedure.

Spinal fluid can be collected from the space between the skull and first vertebra at the beginning of the spinal cord, or from the lumbosacral region of the spinal cord near the patient’s hind end.

The procedure is quite safe and complications are rare.