A lumbar puncture can be both a test to help diagnose cancer and a way to treat it. If your child’s doctor suspects your child has cancer of the brain or spinal cord, he can use a lumbar puncture to help diagnose the disease. Your child’s doctor can also use a lumbar puncture as a way to inject medications into the chemotherapy drugs into the cerebrospinal fluid.
What to expect
Lumbar punctures hurt. Because they hurt, your child will probably be given a local anesthetic to numb the area before the puncture. Your child will feel a prick from the anesthetic injection, but the injection will make the lumbar puncture a lot easier to tolerate.
The doctor will wash the area around the spine and will probably use iodine to disinfect the area.
Your child will have to curl up into a ball so that his spine curves. This spreads the vertebrae apart so that the doctor can insert a needle into the spine. Your child will feel pressure as the needle is inserted. He will then probably be able to relax a bit and uncurl his body.
If the puncture is being used as a diagnostic test, spinal fluid will be removed for testing. If the puncture is a form of therapy, medication may be injected into the spinal fluid.
After the procedure
Lumbar punctures are often done as an outpatient procedure and your child will probably be able to go home the same day. He might feel some pain where the needle was inserted, so plan on giving him paracetamol for discomfort. You’ll also want to encourage him to rest at least for the remainder of the day.
Related cancer tests and treatments articles
- Read about chemotherapy
- Discover what radiotherapy is
- Understand steroid treatment
- Find out more about cat scans
- What is an MRI?
- Read more about biopsies
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health, and Health Insite.
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