Though lumbar puncture is generally recognized as safe, it does carry some risks. These include:

  • Post-lumbar puncture headache. About 40 percent of people who have undergone a lumbar puncture develop a headache afterward due to a leak of fluid into nearby tissues. The headache typically starts several hours up to two days after the procedure and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Post-lumbar puncture headaches can last from a few hours to a week or more.
  • Back discomfort or pain. You may feel pain or tenderness in your lower back after the procedure. The pain might radiate down the back of your legs.
  • Bleeding. Bleeding may occur near the puncture site or, rarely, into the epidural space.
  • Brainstem herniation. Increased pressure within the skull (intracranial), due to a brain tumor or other space-occupying lesion, can lead to compression of the brainstem after a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is removed. A computerized tomography (CT) scan or MRI prior to a lumbar puncture can be obtained to determine if there is evidence of increased intracranial pressure. This complication is uncommon.
Mar. 20, 2012