An epidural blood patch is when a small amount of blood is used to seal a puncture site in the spine as a result of a
spinal tap procedure. The patch helps restore normal pressure in the spinal fluid.
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This procedure is done to relieve a spinal headache that does not go away on its own. A spinal headache can develop after a spinal tap procedure when too much spinal fluid leaks internally and reduces pressure in the spine.
This procedure is quite common and relief is often immediate.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have an epidural blood patch, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Bad reaction to the anesthesia, contrast dye solution, or sedative medication—light-headedness and/or wheezing
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Taking blood thinners prior to the procedure
- Current infection
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the epidural blood patch.
- Your doctor will do a thorough physical exam and explain the risks and benefits of the procedure.
- Discuss all allergies with your doctor.
- You will need to sign a consent form.
- Arrange for a ride home.
- You may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 2-6 hours before the procedure.
If possible, you will be asked to stop taking aspirin , anti-inflammatory medications, certain supplements such as
vitamin E, and blood-thinning medications for up to 10 days before the procedure. Discuss stopping these medications with your doctor.
You may be asked to avoid certain herbal supplements prior to the procedure, such as
- Take your other medications as usual.
Local anesthesia will be used at the puncture site, so you should not feel any pain during the procedure.
In the operating room, two IVs will be inserted in your arms to delivery medications and fluids and to draw blood. You may be given a sedative to ease anxiety.
You will lie face down on the table. Your back will be washed and sanitized. An x-ray may be used to help the doctor guide a small needle to the area where spinal fluid is leaking. Contrast dye solution 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.
You will remain awake and be asked to lie still during the procedure. Local anesthesia injected should block any pain. You may feel a slight pressure during the procedure.
After resting, you may be able to go home the same day.
- You will be taken to a recovery room for a few hours.
- You will be asked to lie flat and still.
- You will be monitored and given IV fluids.
- After a few hours, you will be asked to get up and move around slowly.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Continue bed rest and gradual gentle movement for the first 24 hours.
- For 2-3 days, avoid sudden movements, lifting, or strenuous physical activity.
- Drink plenty of fluids. You may eat a normal diet.
- Return to your activities as tolerated.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Continued pain or discomfort after 24 hours
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Limb weakness, numbness, or unusual sensations
- Trouble emptying bladder or bowels
- Stiff neck
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Krovvidi H, Hasan M. Epidural blood patch.
CPD Anaesthesia. 2003;5(2):94-97.
Epidural blood patch. Newton Wellesley Hospital website. Available at:
http://www.nwh.org/departments-and-services/pain/procedures/epidural-blood-patch/. Accessed June 19, 2014.
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Epidural blood patch. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health website. Available at:
http://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/B_EXTRANET_HEALTH_INFORMATION-FlexMember-Show_Public_HFFY_1105110029981.html. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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