Despite the discomfort felt by many over this procedure, spinal taps are actually very simple procedures from the doctor's standpoint. Because the fluid that coats and flows through the brain also flows down into the spinal cord, the spinal fluid reflects what is occurring in the brain. A spinal tap involves: numbing the skin over the lower part of the spine with an injection or cream; sterilizing the area; having the patient curl up on his side while being held securely; passing a needle through the skin at a large space in between two of the lower vertebrae (the needle does NOT pass through bone); slowly advancing the needle until it "pops" through the lining of the spinal canal into an area of spinal fluid (the needle does NOT go into the spinal cord where the nerves are because the spinal cord stops further up the spine: the bottom of the spine simply contains a reservoir of spinal fluid); spinal fluid will flow out through the needle and the doctor will collect it and send it to the lab. Once the needle is pulled out, the hole seals up rapidly.
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