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Pediatric lumbar puncture and cerebrospinal fluid analysis

William Bonadio
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2014, 46 (1): 141-50

BACKGROUND: Lumbar puncture (LP) is a commonly performed procedure in pediatrics. Accurate analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) profile is essential in diagnosing and managing a variety of infectious and inflammatory conditions involving the brain, meninges, and spinal cord. It can also provide useful diagnostic information in the evaluation of possible subarachnoid hemorrhage and demyelinating syndromes, and aid in the diagnosis and management of pseudotumor cerebri.

OBJECTIVES: To review anatomic, physiologic, and pathologic aspects of performing pediatric lumbar puncture and CSF analysis.

DISCUSSION: Although still a commonly performed procedure in the outpatient setting, effective vaccines to prevent invasive infection due to Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b have greatly reduced pediatric bacterial meningitis rates due to these pathogens, resulting in decreased opportunity for physician-trainees to perfect this important skill (among nonneonates) during the 3 years of supervised residency training. Success in performing pediatric LP is augmented by a thorough understanding of medical aspects related to this procedure. This article discusses technical aspects involved in successfully performing a lumbar puncture to obtain CSF, and interpreting a CSF profile in children.

CONCLUSION: A thorough understanding of anatomic, physiologic, and pathologic considerations regarding performing lumbar puncture and CSF analysis can augment success in diagnosing a variety of potentially serious pediatric conditions.


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