Characterising the patient experience of diagnostic lumbar puncture in idiopathic intracranial hypertension: a cross-sectional online survey

William J Scotton, Susan P Mollan, Hannah Botfield, Andreas Yiangou, Keira Markey, Alexandra J Sinclair, Thomas Walters, Sandra Doughty, Shelley Williamson

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OBJECTIVES: Patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) usually require multiple lumbar punctures (LPs) during the course of their disease, and often report significant morbidity associated with the procedure. The aim of this study was to assess the patient's experience of diagnostic LP in IIH.

DESIGN, METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS: A cross-sectional study of patients with IIH was conducted using an anonymous online survey, with the questions designed in collaboration with IIH UK (the UK IIH charity). Responses were collated over a 2-month period from April to May 2015. Patients were asked to quantify responses using a Verbal Rating Score (VRS) 0-10 with 0 being the minimum and 10 the maximum score.

RESULTS: 502 patients responded to the survey, of which 463 were analysed for this study. 40% of patients described severe pain during the LP (VRS ≥8), and the median pain score during the LP was 7 (VRS, IQR 5-7). The majority of patients felt they received insufficient pain relief (85%). Levels of anxiety about future LPs were high (median VRS 7, IQR 4-10), with 47% being extremely anxious (VRS ≥8). LPs performed as an emergency were associated with significantly greater pain scores compared with elective procedures (median 7, IQR 5-7 vs 6, IQR 4-8, p=0.012). 10.7% went on to have an X-ray-guided procedure due to failure of the initial LP, and the body mass index was significantly higher in this group (mean kg/m240.3 vs 35.5, p=0.001). Higher LP pain scores (VRS) were significantly associated with poorly informed patients (Spearman's correlation, r=-0.32, p<0.001). Patients felt more informed when the LP was performed by a specialist registrar compared with a junior doctor (median 7 vs 5, p=0.001) or a consultant compared with a junior doctor (median 8 vs 5, p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: This study was commissioned by the IIH patient group and is the first to document the patient experience of diagnostic LPs in IIH. It shows that the majority of these patients are experiencing significant morbidity from pain and anxiety. Patient experience of LP may be improved through changing clinical practice to include universal detailed preprocedural information, and where possible, avoiding emergency LPs in favour of LPs booked on an elective day-case unit.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere020445
JournalBMJ open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2018


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