In Anatomy class I learned how there is a lot of unnecessary hype surrounding the medical procedure commonly known as the spinal tap. This procedure, professionally known as a lumbar puncture, is a very low risk procedure. Even though spinal taps are thought to potentially cause paralysis, this is just a myth. Spinal taps they require a needle to be inserted into the spinal column at the L4/L5 vertebral level. The reason why they are generally safe is because the actual spinal cord ends at the L1/L2 vertebral level of the spinal column, so there is quite a large gap (three whole vertebrae plus annulus fibrosis) between where the needle is inserted and where the spinal cord ends. There is basically no risk whatsoever of puncturing the spinal cord during the needling. Even though the spinal cord is not present at L4/L5, there are still spinal cord meninges which contain cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). A spinal tap is ordered in order to analyze the CSF to see if it contains any blood, abnormal proteins, etc. Therefore the L4/L5 puncturing spot is perfect because it is low enough to not come in contact with the spinal cord, but it still contains meninges and CSF.
Speaking of Anatomy, yesterday was the last Anatomy cadaver lab of the year and tomorrow is the last Anatomy lecture of the year. It is crazy to think that in approximately eight months I have learned about every intricate detail regarding the incredible piece of art that is the human body. While the Anatomy course was the most challenging of the year (namely due to the sheer volume of material), it was also the most interesting and inspiring. Day-after-day I kept learning interesting little tid-bits about the human body and these intriguing details just made me eager to learn more. After the cadaver lab yesterday, the class joined our professor to celebrate the year's work over a beer (but I had a cider because I am avoiding wheat this month, remember?). We chatted over lots of nachos and sweet potato fries, and a couple of students said a few words. One of my classmates described my Anatomy professor as inspiring (in addition to describing him as a cool, bad-ass, motherfucker... but that's another story :P). I thoroughly agree (on the inspiring part, ha!) as I would love to one day be as knowledgeable about the human body as dear Dr. T. I'd like to think that so far I'm off to a good start thanks to his insight and brilliance in teaching. Thanks for a great year, Dr. T!