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Lumbar puncture procedure offers multi-disciplinary approach to excess fluid on the brain

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A new procedure offered at Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to a potentially life-threatening situation. Recently, Dr. Sunil Cherry introduced the lumbar puncture procedure for patients being considered for major surgery to relieve pressure inside the skull due to an excess of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain.

Combining staff from the Memorial imaging and rehabilitation departments, the lumbar puncture -- more commonly known as a spinal tap -- is minimally invasive and allows for a more confident diagnosis when recommending a more intense surgical procedure.

Dr. Cherry evaluates patients in his office to decide whether or not a lumbar puncture is necessary. Then, prior to the procedure, a speech therapist and physical therapist from conduct non-invasive cognitive and coordination tests. During the procedure, trained staff members in the Imaging Department carefully insert a needle into the spinal canal low in the back, otherwise known as the lumbar area, to remove some of the fluid. Pulling some of the fluid from the lumbar area creates a change in pressure.

Three hours after completing the lumbar puncture, the patient returns for another round of the same tests with the speech and physical therapists. Dr. Cherry then analyzes the test findings to determine if there has been a change in function or cognition following the procedure due to the slight alleviation of pressure from the spinal fluid. If a portion of fluid being removed makes a difference in the patient’s cognitive or coordination skills, then he or she may be a likely candidate for the Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt, also known as a VP shunt, an intense and invasive procedure.

“The new protocol for diagnosing normal pressure hydrocephalus at Memorial provides an objective process for identifying those patients who would benefit from permanent surgical interventions,” Dr. Cherry said. “The protocol incorporates neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, physical therapists, and speech therapists to come together as a team to make an educated decision on what would best benefit the patient.”

Spinal taps are often performed at Memorial for a multitude of reasons; however, Dr. Cherry’s approach will lead to a more confident diagnosis specifically on behalf of patients suffering from excess cerebrospinal fluid on the brain

For more information, contact Dr. Sunil Cherry at the Neurodiagnostics Center by calling 634-6333.

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