What is an Epidural Blood Patch?
An epidural blood patch is an injection of your blood into the epidural space. The epidural space is not an injection into the spinal cord itself. The spinal cord and spinal nerves are in a “sack” containing clear fluid (cerebrospinal fluid). The area outside this “sack” is called the epidural space.
Why is it Done?
There are certain conditions under which patients will have had injections in the spinal column. Examples include an epidural during labor, a diagnostic spinal tap, a therapeutic spinal injection, etc. A small number of patients will experience a severe headache after the procedure, usually worse with standing and better when lying down. This is due to a persistent leak of spinal fluid into the epidural space. Although the headache itself is harmless, it can be very severe and very debilitating. Your doctor may ask you to come to our clinic for an “epidural blood patch”. The injection of a freshly drawn sample of your own blood into the epidural space “plugs the leak” and the headache goes away. Rarely these are needed after certain trauma from things like a motor vehicle accident.
How long does it take to do?
The actual injection takes only a few minutes. Please allow about an hour and a half for the procedure; this will include talking to your doctor before the procedure, signing the informed consent, positioning in the room, and observation by the recovery room nurse afterwards.
What Medicines are Injected?
There is local anesthetic to numb the skin and any sedatives that you may need.
What are the Risks and Side Effects?
Overall, this procedure has very few risks. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks and side effects you should know about. Commonly encountered side effects are increased pain from the injection (usually temporary), rarely inadvertent puncture of the“sack” containing spinal fluid (may not relieve your headaches), infection, bleeding, nerve damage, or no relief from your headache.
Who should not have this Injection?
The following patients should not have this injection: if you are allergic to any of the medications to be injected, if you are on a blood-thinning medication (e.g. coumadin, injectable heparin), or if you have an active infection going on.