Epidural Blood Patch FAQs
An epidural blood patch is an outpatient procedure where blood is injected into the epidural space of the spine. This is done to prevent cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage. Patients who have this procedure have undergone a spinal tap or lumbar epidural.
Why is an epidural blood patch necessary?
An epidural blood patch is needed to correct spinal headache due to low fluid pressure in the epidural space that results from CSF leakage. When there is leakage of this fluid, the patient will often experience a headache.
How is an epidural blood patch performed?
The epidural blood patch is an outpatient procedure that involves drawing some blood from the patient and injecting it into the epidural space. Once the blood is positioned, it clots and forms a patch to seal the site and permit CSF from leaking out further.
What conditions are treated with an epidural blood patch?
Usually, the epidural blood patch is used to treat a post-lumbar puncture headache. Two common surgeries that can lead to CSF leakage are myelogram with spinal anesthesia and a diagnostic lumbar spinal tap. Approximately 30% of patients experience post-procedural symptoms of headache, dizziness, and nausea, and these people require an epidural blood patch to correct the problem. Treatment for acute symptoms includes bed rest and caffeine.
Are headaches common following spinal procedures?
For many patients, an acute headache after an epidural or spinal tap will heal naturally as the body restores fluid and stabilizes pressure. For severe headaches, the epidural blood patch gives relief. Usually, the headaches begin 10 to 72 hours following the procedure where the spine is involved. The pain increases with severity when the person attempts to sit up, stands, or goes upright.
How is the epidural blood patch treatment performed?
An epidural blood patch procedure only takes around 30 minutes to perform. The patient feels pressure and tingling as the doctor takes blood and administers it to the CSF fluid leak. An MRI or CT scan is used to confirm the CSF leak. The thin needle is guided into the epidural space. Once the epidural space is closed, the leak will be seal as blood clots.
What can I expect after the epidural blood patch procedure?
Following this procedure, you may experience stiffness and soreness in your back for around 48 hours. For some patients, the headache will go away immediately. Be sure not to lift heavy items or be involved in strenuous activities, but showering is allowed.
What risk or side effects are there for an epidural blood patch?
Expect to have stiffness and soreness at the site temporarily. Since the procedure involves the use of a patient’s own blood, rejection is not typical. Other side effects include drainage from the injection site, fever, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and mild confusion.
How successful are epidural blood patches?
For the relief of spinal headache, the epidural blood patch is proven 95% effective with one treatment and 97% effective after a second injection. Many people report that symptoms resolve immediately after the injection.