Overview & Procedure
An epidural blood patch is a minimally invasive procedure that uses autologous blood to close holes in the dura mater of the spinal cord. This injection technique is performed after a patient has received a lumbar puncture, usually from an epidural during labor, diagnostic spinal tap, therapeutic spinal injection or when a patient has a spontaneous Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) leak.
The injection only takes a few minutes to perform, and a local anesthetic is usually all that is needed to reduce the patient’s discomfort. During the procedure, the patient lies on their stomach with the lower back exposed. 20-25cc of blood is extracted from the patient. The physician then places an epidural needle into the affected area and injects the blood. Immediately after the injection, the needle is withdrawn, and the patient is sent to a separate room to recover.
Immediately after the procedure, patients are sent to a separate room to recover. During this time, the patient’s vitals are monitored for any signs of an adverse reaction. Patients will need to rest for about 30-45 minutes after the procedure. Once the allotted time is up, the patient will be asked to stand up and walk around. At this point in the process, most patients experience significant pain relief that continues to improve over the course of several hours. Normal activity levels may resume after a few days, as long as a Southwest Spine and Pain Center (SWSP) physician has provided their approval. This procedure carries very few risks because it uses the patient's own blood. Nevertheless, patients may experience adverse side effects such as increased pain from the injection, infection, bleeding, nerve damage, or no relief from their headache. If the patient experiences these side effects, they should report to the SWSP center or if it is after hours to the ER. A second epidural blood patch may be necessary for patients with persistent CSF leak.