Uses of a spinal tap
A spinal tap can be used to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the clear, colorless fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The extracted fluid can then be analyzed for the presence of an infection or other problems such as abnormal cells or cancers.
A spinal tap can also be used to measure the pressure of the fluid in the spinal canal and brain. In cases that require relieving pressure in the spinal canal, a small amount of CSF may be withdrawn using the needle.
Spinal tap as a diagnostic tool
A spinal tap can also help diagnose inflammatory conditions of the nervous system such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and multiple sclerosis. It can also be used to diagnose cancers involving the brain and spinal cord, as well as bleeding around the brain.
Spinal tap and ALS
A spinal tap is performed to exclude inflammatory nerve conditions and usually done only when the patient has unusual symptoms of ALS, such as spinal nerve abnormalities or no sign of abnormal reflexes or spasticity.
The procedure is safe and takes around 30 to 45 minutes. Common side effects include a headache and lower back pain.
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