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The Diagnostic Spinal Tap

[+] Article and Author Information

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Linda Johnson White; Division of Scientific Activities, Health and Public Policy Committee, American College of Physicians, 4200 Pine Street; Philadelphia, PA 19104.


© 1986 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1986;104(6):880-885. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-104-6-880
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This excerpt has been provided in the absence of an abstract.

Since its description in the late 1800s (1, 2), the spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, has become a mainstay of neurologic diagnosis. As with other body fluids, examination of the cerebrospinal fluid has a number of applications. Because only a few applications yield a precise diagnosis, the lumbar puncture is most useful when cerebrospinal fluid patterns are related to clinical findings.

The basic techniques for doing the lumbar puncture have been well described (3, 4) and include several important components. Patient reassurance and proper positioning are important. The most commonly used cerebrospinal fluid tests include cell count (both total

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