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Understanding infant spinal taps

Information for Parents

If your doctor has indicated that your infant needs a spinal tap procedure, you may have questions. When your infant is having any kind of medical procedure, it’s understandable to be a little uneasy. At SMöLTAP®, we are here to help.


Spinal Tap Procedure

Also known as a lumbar puncture, a spinal tap is a medical procedure that involves collecting a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for examination.


Why does my child need a lumbar puncture?

Doctors use the fluid obtained from a lumbar puncture to test for viral or bacterial infection or other medical conditions. This test is often done to find out if a infant has meningitis (a serious infection around the brain).

Meningitis may be suspected in a infant with a fever, especially if the infant is less than one month old. Early diagnosis of meningitis can greatly improve your child's chances of a full recovery. If your infant has meningitis, s/he will need other tests and treatment in the hospital.


What to Expect

How it works. With a lumbar puncture, a doctor will insert a needle into the lower lumbar region of the infant’s lower back, below the end of the spinal column. The needle is used to extract a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This fluid is then sent to a lab for testing.


During a lumbar puncture, your infant will be curled in a ball and held in that position by an assistant.


Some parents choose to be in the room when the procedure is being performed, while others prefer the waiting area. You may discuss this with your doctor.


  • How long does it take? A spinal tap typically takes about 30 minutes.

  • Does it hurt? Doctors will typically apply a local numbing agent on the skin where the needle will be inserted in order to minimize any discomfort. During the procedure the infant may experience minor discomfort. A sucrose solution (sugar & sterile water) is sometimes given to the infant soothe and ease discomfort.

  • Recovery. Recovery time is typically fast, 24-48 hours. The infant may have a headache or backache for a day to two after the test. A doctor may apply a bandage at the location of the procedure. It can be removed in 24 hours.

  • Results. Results normally take 48-72 hours, but some testing may yield results in as little as 30 minutes. When meningitis is suspected, the doctor may start your infant on an antibiotic in advance of receiving results.


What does SMöLTAP® do?

SMöLTAP® is a medical cradle that improves the positioning of the infant for the spinal tap procedure. Not only does it make the procedure easier for the doctor to perform, but it also improves comfort for your infant. SMöLTAP® is like a message chair for your infant.

Without SMöLTAP®, infants are typically place on their sides and held in place by an assistant during the procedure. This can make the procedure more challenging for healthcare professionals to complete.



A lumbar puncture is a safe test and has been performed successfully for decades. It should be performed by a qualified healthcare professional in an appropriate medical setting, like a hospital or emergency room.

What if the procedure is not successful?

Sometimes the procedure is not successful. In this case, usually one of 2 things has happened:

1) no fluid was obtained during the procedure, or

2) the fluid sample may have some blood in it.

When blood is present, the sample may still be useful for testing.

In either case, the procedure may be repeated if considered not successful the first time. Failure to obtain CSF should not delay antibiotic treatment.

If the doctor suspects bleeding, he/she may order a cranial ultrasound or other imaging.


“The spinal tap procedure can be stressful for both baby and parent. SMöLTAP® is a gamechanger. It’s like a “message chair” for the infant. It’s unique design helps greatly with comfort during the procedure and it provides peace of mind for the parent.”

Dr. Eric Biondi, MD, Johns Hopkins

“I can’t believe something this needed hasn’t been developed until now. Finally, there’s something to help make the spinal tap procedure easier. SMöLTAP® helps position the infant properly, making the procedure much easier to perform.”

Dr. Jeremy Yardley, MD, Northern Lights Health

We put together some resources for you.

Proud Parents
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