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Neurology. 2018 May 22;90(21):981-987. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005556.

Opinion and Special Articles: Stress when performing the first lumbar puncture may compromise patient safety.

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From the Copenhagen Academy for Medical Education and Simulation (M.J.V.H., L.K.), the Capital Region of Denmark; Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (M.J.V.H., L.K.), University of Copenhagen; Department of Neurology (T.W.), Zealand University Hospital; The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (J.K.), Copenhagen, Denmark; Department of Medical Education (Y.S.P.), University of Illinois Chicago; and Centre for Health Science Education (C.R.), Faculty of Health, Aarhus University, Denmark.



To quantify physician stress levels when performing lumbar puncture (LP) and explore operator stress effect on patient outcomes.


This was a cross-sectional, multicenter study. Novices, intermediates, and experts in performing LP were recruited from 4 departments of neurology and emergency medicine. Stress was measured before and during performance of the LP using cognitive appraisal (CA), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Short (STAI-S) questionnaire, and the heart rate variability measure low frequency/high frequency index (LF/HF ratio). Patient-related outcomes were pain, confidence in the operator, and postdural puncture headache (PDPH).


Forty-six physicians were included in the study: 22 novices, 12 intermediates, and 12 experts. Novices had the highest stress level and experts the lowest measured by cognitive appraisal and STAI-S before and during LP performance (p < 0.001 for all comparisons). Novices had the highest sympathetic tonus indicated by the highest LF/HF ratio before (p = 0.004) and during (p = 0.056) LP performance. Physician stress level was not significantly related to patients' pain. However, there was a significant relationship between STAI-S during the procedure and patient confidence in the operator (regression coefficient = -0.034, p = 0.008). High physician heart rate during the procedure significantly increased the odds of PDPH (odds ratio = 1.17, p = 0.036).


Novice stress levels were high before and during performance of LP. Stress was significantly related to patient confidence in the operator and risk of PDPH. Simulation-based training should be considered to reduce novice residents' stress levels and increase patient safety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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