My Lumbar Puncture Experience

A few months ago I found out I would need a Lumbar a Puncture. My knees turned to jelly and I thought I would pass out. I am such a wimp when it comes to needles. The thought of a needle makes me shake from head to toe and the thought of having one in my back makes me feel sick.
All throughout my pregnancies I always told Daddy, no matter how much pain I am in or even if I am screaming for one I will never have a needle for pain relief or an epidural during labour and thankfully I never needed one.
So the reason for me needing a lumbar puncture is I have become a little unsteady on my feet and I went through a period of falling over. I don't fall so much at the moment although I did have a nasty one in the summer holidays. Also I have started to walk funny. I didn't notice it at first but daddy did and now I am more aware that my left foot rises higher than my right foot when I walk. 
I went the doctors and they referred me to a neurologist. He then referred me for some tests. I went for a EMG and a NCT. An electromyogram (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction. Nerve conduction studies measure how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals.
I was worried about the tests but it wasn't to bad in the end although I got very abnormal readings which brings me to why I need a lumbar puncture. 
So I've been waiting for my appointment date and two days ago I got a phone call to say there had been a cancellation and I could go in on Friday. 
I was so nervous. I felt so sick. I have googled lots of forums and everyone had these horror stories about just how horrific it is and how painful and unpleasant it was. I didn't find one person who had a positive experience. Everyone was just warning others to only get one if absolutely necessary because it's unbearable
Well after reading these I worked myself up so much that I was really thinking about not getting it done. I didn't want to be stabbed in the spine, I didn't want a splitting headache for days after and I didn't want the worst pains ever in my back. So I weighed it up and although I knew it would be unpleasant and unbearable at times I needed to know why I am falling and why I am walking this way. It may be just a trapped nerve after little J was lying back to back through labour but it could be something more serious.
 *photo courtesy of NHS*
So I plucked up the courage to have it done but if I am honest I nearly refused a few times before I even got into the procedure room.
So I arrived at the hospital about 11:30am and I was admitted to the day ward quite quickly. I was given a hospital gown and was seen by a nurse who did my blood pressure and temperature. 
I was quite upset at this point and had tears rolling down my face. The nurse was really lovely and gave me a hug and said she would get the doctor to come in and see me. Daddy was sat next to me and he looked as scared as me. 
When the doctor came in he explained the procedure to me and was very sensitive to how I was feeling and reassured me that it's a procedure he does quite a lot. 
He said that once I was prepared to go ahead with it then I would walk to a side ward which is where it will done. 
Once I was ready I walked to the side room with another nurse who made me feel quite calm and we were just chatting about our children. When the doctor came in I lay down on the bed on my left side. I had to took my knees up to my chest as far as I could go. I was trying to stay calm at this point but I could feel myself tense up and my breathing was getting faster. 
The doctor talked through the procedure as and when he was doing it which I prefer  because I hate surprises. I like to know what is happening.
Once I was in the right position the doctor started feeling towards the base of my spine from my hip. He moved his fingers round putting lots of pressure trying to find the small pocket at the base of my spine which contains the fluid.
Once he had found the spot were he thought the fluid was he then cleaned the area with sterile wipes and then told me I would feel a sting as he inserted local anaesthetic. He inserted it just under the skin at first and I didn't feel more than a scratch. He had to wait a few minutes before he could insert more. This time he went deeper so it numbed  the inside of my back were the lumbar puncture needle would go. Again I didn't feel nothing more than a slight scratch.
After the local anaesthetic had numbed the area he inserted the needle that was going to withdraw the fluid. This didn't hurt but it felt strange. I could feel pressure and then I got a weird feeling in my leg and stomach but it passed after a few seconds. It was like a tingling sensation and it made me go 'ooh' and jump a little bit it wasn't pain. Once the needle was in the right place he just leaves it there and lets the fluid drip out. I didn't feel anything and we just sat and chatted really. It took about 15 minutes to get the amount he needed. It drips out so slowly. 
Once he had the amount, he removed the needle and I stayed on my side for a further 5 minutes. I then sat up and he then took blood. They need to take blood to get an accurate reading of the fluid. Not sure why.
I then put on my shoes and walked back the day ward where Daddy was waiting. They said I could sit in the chair but I lay down because I had read it helps prevent headaches. I lay for a hour while drinking a litre of water and two cans of full fat coca cola. I was also given a sandwich. After one hour I sat up for about 15 minutes and they then let me go home.
I arrived at 11:30am and went for the procedure at 12:15pm. I was back on the ward at 12:55pm and I left the hospital at 2:15pm.
When I came home I lay flat and tried to drink more water. They recommend three litres to help replace fluid loss. Caffeine also helps so that's why I drank the coca cola.
At the moment I feel fine and I can't believe how upset got myself. Googling obviously made me lots worse after reading so many horror stories. 
I was lucky that the doctor found the pocket of fluid on his first attempt. He did say that if he couldn't find it after 3 times he would need to get someone else. 
The side effects can occur upto 5 days later which include headaches, back pains, infection or bleeding so I will keep an eye on that. 
Have you had a lumbar puncture? How did you find it?



  1. Googling things like this is always the worst. The horror stories go up but people rarely talk about the good experiences. so glad you're feeling ok :)

  2. Ahh what a comprehensive post and I can imagine it being very scary. Glad that it all went ok.

    Helen X

  3. My Mum has had quite a lot, she had to have them regularly after a serious, life threatening illness. She has extremely unpleasant memories of them. I'm glad your procedure went well & hope the news is good x

  4. I've had three LP's on there own & then a further two in one procedure doing something else.

    You are very lucky.

    My first one the Neuro touched a nerve with the needle which went down my leg. He had to stop.

    Second one was done by x-ray pain when needle went in, huge pain when it went further & chronic headache afterwards because for me they wanted to drain off as much fluid as I could stand.

    Third time ditto of number two.

    Then they decided they wanted to do the two together while pitting a bit of wire from my groin up to my head behind my ear!

    After these two I now am in pain almost daily from the scar tissue in my lower back from where the needles went in & out. It's a nerve pain horrible., something I will now always have.

    Mine was for IIH (Idiopathic Intercranial Hypertension).

    I'm so pleased that yours was over quickly xxx


  5. So strange my wife was searching the web for this information lats night! Great post!

  6. Aww Michelle, bless you, I had an epidural and was so upset as it was almost forced on me in labour and then hours later they removed and I gave birth naturally. I am so relieved you came through it. I remember before Google my Granny had a huge medical book, she would look up symptoms and my mum when a child had a loose tummy, she after reading up, decided my Mum had dysentery and would possibly die. The Dr called and went really mad at her, saying you have to burn that bl**dy book!! Google is much the same when its a medical thing, but also helpful if you stay away from the horror stories. I hope you escape the headaches and I also hope all is well with you soon Jo xxx

  7. Glad it all went well - can imagine it must have been very nerve-wracking going in for it x

  8. What an experience but glad you got through it ok. My brother had a LP when he was 11, it makes me sick to think go it now.


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