Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Epidural Blood Patch

Definition

An epidural blood patch uses a small amount of blood to create a seal. It's done after a lumbar puncture (LP) to restore normal pressure in the spinal fluid.

Lumbar Puncture
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Reasons for Procedure ^

This procedure is done to relieve a spinal headache that doesn't go away on its own. A spinal headache can happen after an LP. Too much spinal fluid leaks inside and lowers the pressure in the spine.

This procedure is quite common and relief is often immediate.

Possible Complications ^

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:

  • Reaction to the anesthesia, sedative, or contrast material
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Your chances of problems are higher for:

  • Taking blood thinners prior to the procedure
  • Having an infection

What to Expect ^

Prior to Procedure

You will have a physical exam and certain tests. These depend on what problems you're having.

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Arrange for a ride home.
  • You may be asked to stop food and drink for 2 to 6 hours beforehand.
  • Talk to your doctor about all the medicines you take. You may need to stop take certain medicines up to 1 week in advance.

Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is used. You may be given a sedative to help you relax.

Description of the Procedure

Two IVs will be inserted in your arms for medicines, fluids, and to draw blood.

You will lie face down on the table. Your back will be washed and sanitized. An x-ray may be used to help guide a small needle to the area where spinal fluid is leaking. Contrast material will be injected and more x-rays will be taken. A small amount of blood will be drawn and injected into the correct area of the spine. This should clot, or seal, the leakage.

How Long Will It Take?

About 30 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will remain awake and be asked to lie still during the procedure. Local anesthesia will block pain. You may feel slight pressure during the procedure.

Average Hospital Stay

After resting, you may be able to go home.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Once the LP is done, you will be asked to lie flat and still. The healthcare staff will watch your vital signs. After a short time, you will be asked to get up and move around.

At Home

The healthcare staff will tell you how to care for the puncture site to prevent infection.

Call Your Doctor ^

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Continued pain after 24 hours
  • Fever or chills
  • Limb weakness, numbness, or unusual sensations
  • Trouble emptying bladder or bowels
  • Stiff neck

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
https://www.acog.org

Family Doctor—American Family Physician
https://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
https://www.cas.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
https://sogc.org

REFERENCES:

Anesthesia epidural blood patch. UW Health website. Available at: https://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/diagnostic-tests/7017.html. Updated September 2016. Accessed August 23, 2018.

Epidural blood patch. University of Rochester Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/imaging/patients/procedures/epidural-patch.aspx. Accessed August 23, 2018.

Krovvidi H, Hasan M. Epidural blood patch. CPD Anaesthesia. 2003;5(2):94-97.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 8/23/2018