Anyone who has suffered a brain injury is at risk of developing a condition that will cause intracranial pressure. If the medical team that is treating a brain injury patient thinks the patient has elevated intracranial pressure, they might decide that they need to monitor the pressure to determine if action is necessary. One way to monitor intracranial pressure after a brain injury is through a lumbar catheter.
A lumbar catheter is an invasive procedure in which a spinal needle is placed into the spinal fluid through the back. This is done using a local anesthetic that numbs the area where the puncture will be performed. Once the needle is in place, a thin tube is inserted through the needle before the needle is removed. A pressure transducer is connected to the tube.
The procedure can cause a pressure-like pain. It can also lead to infection, so antibiotics via an IV might be given before, during, and after the procedure.
In most cases, the pressure is monitored for 24 to 72 hours. With these readings, it is possible to determine if there is a pressure buildup that might be dangerous. Since you are allowed to move around while the catheter is in place, the medical team can determine if the pressure changes with specific movements.
As you can imagine, this test isn’t any fun. It can be rather painful, including having to deal with pain in your back or leg, a headache, or dizziness. It also means that you will likely have medical bills coming for the procedure and hospital stay. You might opt to seek compensation for the brain injury if your accident was the result of negligence or purposeful harm.
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Intracranial Pressure Monitoring via a lumbar catheter,” accessed Dec. 11, 2015