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.

Spinal Tap

nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

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.

Possible Complications

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:

  • Bleeding
  • Bad reaction to the anesthesia, contrast dye solution, or sedative medication—light-headedness and/or wheezing
  • Infection

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.

What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
  • 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 from the hospital.
  • You may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 2-6 hours before the procedure.
  • Certain medications may cause complications during the procedure or recovery. These medications may need to be stopped up to 10 days before the procedure. Talk to your doctor before the procedure about all medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking.

Local anesthesia will be used at the puncture site, so you should not feel any pain during the procedure.

Description of the Procedure

In the operating room, 2 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.

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 injected should block any pain. You may feel a slight pressure during the procedure.

Average Hospital Stay

After resting, you may be able to go home the same day.

Post-procedure Care
At the Hospital
  • 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.
At Home

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • For 2-3 days, avoid sudden movements, lifting, or strenuous physical activity.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor

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.