My grandma is 85 years old and is gradually losing her ability to speak clearly. The doctor has ruled out a stroke, tumor, and ALS. He would like to perform a spinal tap and check for a number of other diseases. What are the main risks with a spinal tap, and are they increased with age?
We certainly can not go through all the risks associated with a procedure here but I will outline a few things and you will need to follow up with your GM doctor to discuss issues further. In general spinal taps are very safe procedures that are done on an outpatients basis. One the the largest risks is if the patient has increased intracranial pressure (high pressure in the brain usually from a tumor). In these cases a spinal puncture can result in a lower of pressure and patients can herniate. Most people recommend an imaging scan of the brain first and also looking at the optic nerves to make sure their is no evidence of increased pressure. Older patients usually have more atopy (shrinkage) of the brain and hence the risk is probably lower. The most common side affect is a post LP headache. Patients complain of headache in the upright position and are okay lying down. It is usually treated with bed rest and fliuds but ocassionally a bloob patch (the patients blood is put inti the same space as the spinal tap and closes off the leak) is done. These procedures are generally very safe and most patients have very little difficulty. PLease ask you doctor the same question.
This information is provided for geral medical education purposes. PLease consult your doctor for diagnostic and treatment options.
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