What is cerebrospinal fluid?
The central nervous system (CNS) is bathed in a clear, colorless liquid, called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), that cushions and protects the brain and spinal cord. CSF is produced in the ventricles and helps to transfer waste products from the brain to the vascular system. It can also deliver nutrients and hormones to the brain. CSF is composed of cells, water, proteins, sugars, and other vital substances. Examining the fluid can help doctors to identify diseases affecting the central nervous system, including MS.
How is CSF collected?
Cerebrospinal fluid is obtained through a needle that is inserted into the spine during a procedure called lumbar puncture or spinal tap. For this procedure, the patient will usually lay on their side with their back arched (chin and knees tucked toward the chest). An area of skin on the lower back is cleaned before the procedure.
After the area is anesthetized (numbed), a thin and hollow needle is carefully inserted between two lumbar bones into the spinal canal, the space where the CSF circulates.
You may feel slight pressure as the needle is inserted. It’s very important to stay perfectly still during the procedure.
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