Tuesday, April 28, 2009 10:09
Posted in category General Health

Lumbar puncture or spinal tap

A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is the method used to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for testing. Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. In a lumbar puncture, which is usually done in the hospital, a needle is used to penetrate into the spine at the lower end, between two spinal bones called lumbar vertebrae, and draw out the fluid. The pressure in the spinal column can be measured at the same time. The fluid is examined to see if it is clear or cloudy and to see if it contains any blood. It is then tested for viruses, bacteria, and other signs of infection.

A lumbar puncture may be done to test for meningitis, encephalitis, brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), polio, and other nervous system disorders. Under the usual circumstances, there is no risk from a lumbar puncture. If the spinal fluid is under extreme pressure, however, the procedure carries some risk of complications; a different technique is then used to minimize risk.

Cat scan

A CAT scan is a sophisticated type of X ray. The initials stand for Computerized Axial Tomography. In a CAT scan, a series of special X rays are made of a part of the body such as the head or the torso. The patient is placed in a tunnel-like opening in the machine, and does not have to be repositioned for each picture as is done for ordinary X rays. This way, pictures can easily be taken from many different angles. A computer then assembles those X rays into a single picture which shows a cross-section of that part of the body. The whole process takes only a few seconds. CAT scans are used to find abnormal growths or other problems in areas that are inside the body and therefore difficult to see without time-consuming and potentially dangerous exploratory surgery. For example, the brain can be examined for an abnormal growth without opening up the skull.

CAT scans are usually done in a hospital. The equipment for the procedure is expensive, and a limited number of scanners is available. Sometimes a patient must be transported to another hospital, or even to another town, for this test, because a scanner is not available in his or her home town.


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