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, or therapeutic spinal injection. A lumbar puncture procedure can cause severe headaches from spinal fluid leaking into the epidural space. This may sound dangerous, but headaches from a lumbar puncture are usually harmless and can be treated with procedures like an epidural blood patch.
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. A Southwest Spine & Pain Center physician may administer intravenous sedation if the patient is particularly anxious. During the procedure, the patient lies on his or her stomach with the lower back exposed. The skin near the injection site is cleaned and marked before 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 Immediately after the injection, the needle is withdrawn and the patient is sent to a separate room to recover.
Patients will need to rest for about 30 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. The Southwest Spine & Pain Center physicians may recommend patients take it easy for a day or two after the injection. Normal activity levels may resume after a few days, as long as an 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. A second epidural blood patch may be necessary for patients with extensive damage from their lumbar puncture.