A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is a procedure in which spinal fluid is removed from the subarachnoid space in the lumbar region of the spine. It is often ordered to check for infection, rule out certain diseases, or to detect and/or treat elevations in spinal fluid pressure.

Individuals often ask if a lumbar puncture is contraindicated in people diagnosed with Chiari malformation and/or syringomyelia. Some research shows that having a Chiari malformation may increase the risks associated with this procedure. Some authors have reported a worsening of symptoms or catastrophic results following the procedure, but these are considered very rare. In those patients who have been successfully surgically treated, these concerns are even less of an issue.

Make sure the ordering physician is aware of your diagnosis and that you discuss all potential benefits and risks of the procedure. If the situation is not an emergency, it is a good idea to discuss the procedure with the neurosurgeon as well. If the benefits outweigh the risks, your physician may decide to go ahead with the procedure. It is important to remember that some conditions such as meningitis can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated properly.