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What's a Spinal Tap?

Spinal Tap

Say: SPY-nul tap

A spinal tap is an important test for diagnosing illnesses, such as meningitis. It's a way of taking a sample of the fluid around the spinal cord. To get the sample, the doctor inserts a very thin needle between two vertebrae (back bones) in the lower back. But before putting in the needle, the doctor numbs the skin by giving the person local anesthesia (a numbing shot).

After the fluid is collected, the doctor removes the needle and applies a bandage. Then the fluid sample goes to the lab to be checked under a microscope to learn more about why the person feels sick. Knowing the cause of a sickness is the first step to treating it so the person can get better.