CSF Study

A CSF study (Cerebrospinal Fluid) is a nuclear medicine test using small amounts of an injected radioactive tracer (radiopharmaceutical) and a gamma camera to track the flow of the CSF around the spinal cord and brain. Because this flow is very slow, the examination is completed over two days. A CSF study is most often performed to diagnose flow disruptions, increased pressure or leaks in the CSF.

Before your procedure

What to bring

  • Your referral form
  • Any relevant previous imaging
  • Your Medicare card and any concession cards


A referral from your doctor or medical specialist, and an appointment is required for this examination that will be performed at a hospital based Lake Imaging clinic.

The day before your appointment you should eat normally and drink plenty of fluids, but not excessive amounts of tea or coffee.

You must have nothing to eat for four hours before your appointment time. Fasting overnight is normally most convenient. You may continue drinking water during this time.

Be prepared to be at the hospital for the entire day and to return the next morning to complete the scans. Some patients will stay overnight, and this will be pre-arranged.

If you are a please discuss this with us when making your appointment. 

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or caring for a small child on the appointment day, please notify us in advance to receive special instructions.

During your procedure

What to expect during my procedure

When you attend your appointment at Lake Imaging you will be asked to answer a few safety questions, remove any jewellery, watches etc, then change into an examination gown. 

A nurse will explain the first stage of the procedure, the lumbar puncture, in which a Radiologist will give you a local anaesthetic before inserting a needle into the lower spine region. This may be done with the help of a CT (computed Tomography) scan to aid in positioning the needle correctly. The Radiologist will then inject the tracer and there will be a break of about four hours before the CSF scan begins.

After this break a technologist will position your head and spine under the gamma camera and take images over a 30 minute period. During the scanning you may breathe normally, but must try not move.

The scanning procedure will then be repeated around six hours after the injection, and again the next day (about 24 hours after the injection). These images will show how far the tracer has travelled around the spinal cord and brain.

The gamma camera is a large square radiation detector which sits close to the area being examined.  It also rotates around the body while acquiring images (SPECT). You will experience no unusual sensations or discomfort from the scanning process.

The images may be taken in combination with a low dose CT scan at the same time on the same scanner. This combined SPECT/CT improves the accuracy of the information obtained, and adds only a few minutes to the duration of the procedure.

Risks and side effects

Lumbar punctures are low-risk procedures, but they sometimes cause short-lived side effects. These include temporary headache and back pain. Other, more serious side effects such as infection are rare, and we will be explained to you before the procedures begin.

Nuclear medicine examinations are considered very safe with almost no reported adverse reactions attributable to the radiopharmaceuticals used in these examinations.

Nuclear Medicine studies require very small doses of gamma radiationand are only performed where the benefits of the examination are deemed to outweigh any potential risks. At Lake Imaging you can be assured that using the latest technology and with staff trained in radiation reduction techniques, radiation doses are kept as low as reasonably possible.

If you are worried or concerned about having a Lumbar Puncture or Nuclear Medicine study you should discuss this with your referring doctor or medical specialist before coming for your examination.

If you think you may be pregnant, please inform our Nuclear Medicine team before your examination commences, so that special precautions can be taken.

For further information regarding radiation safety please visit:

Who will perform and report my examination

At Lake Imaging your CSF study will be carried out by a Nuclear Medicine Technologist who has a degree in Medical Radiation Science and is accredited by the ANZSNM.  

Your images will be reviewed along with your relevant medical history, and any other imaging, and be reported by our Nuclear Medicine credentialed radiologist or Nuclear Medicine physician (a medical doctor specialising in the interpretation of Nuclear Medicine studies).

After your procedure

What to expect after my procedure

Radiation from the injected isotope diminishes to a very low level by the end of the procedure, and you are free to resume normal activities. If you are caring for a small child, or breastfeeding, we may ask to take some minor precautions.

How do I receive my results?

If your results are needed urgently, or you have an appointment straight after your scan with your referring doctor or health care provider, Lake Imaging will arrange to have your results available immediately. Otherwise your referring doctor or health care provider will receive your report within 48 hours of your examination.

Please ensure that you make a follow up appointment with your referring doctor or health care provider to discuss your results.