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A lumbar drain is a soft, thin, sterile tube (also called a catheter) that your doctor places though the skin of your back, into your lower (lumbar) spine. The drain collects cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This is a clear fluid that surrounds your spinal cord and brain to protect them from injury. Read on to learn more about lumbar drain placement and how it’s done.
You lie on your side with your knees bent toward your chest. Or you sit on the edge of the bed leaning on a support, such as a chair.
Your health care provider cleans the insertion site and injects local anesthesia into the skin around the insertion site to numb it.
He or she inserts a long, thin needle between the vertebrae (bones that make up the spine) in your lower back. The needle guides the lumbar drain into place. The needle is slowly removed, leaving the drain in place.
The drain is covered with a bandage.
The drain is attached to a drainage bag and hung on an IV pole.
The drain often remains in place for 3 to 7 days.
A health care provider checks you every 1 to 2 hours to be sure there are no problems.
While the drain is in place, you lie on your back or side. Let your nurse know if you’re uncomfortable and need to change positions. Your nurse can raise or lower the head of the bed.
If you must get up for any reason, your nurse must clamp the drain.
Do not touch the drain or allow visitors to touch it. This can cause an infection, change the drainage speed, or result in the drain pulling out.
Right after your health care provider inserts the drain, you may have leg pain. This pain should fade. If it gets worse or you feel numbness or tingling, let your nurse know.
Your health care provider removes the drain slowly when you no longer need it. You lie on your side or sit bent over a support. After the drain is removed, your health care provider uses a suture (stitch) to close the hole, and he or she places a bandage over the insertion site. The hole closes quickly, often within a few days. Your health care provider will check the site over the next 24 to 48 hours to be sure it isn’t leaking or infected.
Let your nurse or doctor know if you have any of the following symptoms while the drain is in place, or after it is removed:
Pain, swelling, or warmth at the insertion site
Nausea or vomiting
Pain, numbness, or tingling in your legs that doesn’t go away
Trouble controlling your bladder
Pain that isn’t relieved by medications
Leakage from the insertion site or tubing
Fever or signs of infection, such as pus