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Lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, is the procedure done to obtain a sample of the normally crystal clear fluid which circulates around the brain and spinal cord. If the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord are inflammed (meningitis), inflammatory and infection fighting cells (pus) as well as increased levels of proteins will be found in the fluid.
Lumbar puncture is also performed as part of the workup or ongoing treatment of certain cancers, notably leukemia and neuroblastoma.
The procedure may seem imposing but it is probably less painful for your child than having blood drawn. It is generally easy to do for an experienced pediatrician. If you doctor says it needs to be done, trust her.