oa South African Family Practice - Lumbar puncture for the generalist : review article

Volume 46, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



The safe and successful performance of a lumbar puncture demands a working and yet specific knowledge as well as competency in performance. This review aims to aid understanding of the knowledge framework, the pitfalls and complications of lumbar puncture. It includes special reference to three dimensional relationships, functional anatomy, imaging anatomy, normal variation and living anatomy. A lumbar puncture is a commonly performed procedure for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Epidural and spinal anaesthesia, for example, are common in obstetric practice and involve the same technique as a lumbar puncture except for the endpoint of the needle being in the epidural space and subarachnoid space respectively. The procedure is by no means innocuous and some anatomical pitfalls include inability to find the correct entry site for placement of the lumbar puncture needle and lack of awareness of structures in relation to the advancing needle. Headache is the most common complication and it is important to avoid traumatic and dry taps, herniation syndromes and injury to the terminal end of the spinal cord. With a thorough knowledge of the contraindications, the regional anatomy and rationale of the technique and adequate prior skills practice, a lumbar puncture can be performed safely and successfully.

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