Headaches can occur due a variety of reasons. One of them is leakage of spinal fluid. This is called the spinal headache. Epidural blood patches are a treatment option for managing spinal headaches.
When headache occurs due to leakage of spinal fluid, is essential that this process be stopped in order to relieve the headache.An epidural blood patch involves injection of blood into the spinal space (epidural space) which then closes the opening through which the leakage is occurring. This is a surgical procedure and can provide fast and effective relief.
Spinal headaches can occur after procedures such as a lumbar puncture where a small hole is made in the lining of the spinal-cord with a fine needle in order to obtain a small amount of fluid that circulates around the spinal-cord (cerebrospinal fluid) for analysis. Normally, after the lumbar puncture procedure is complete, the hole that is created by a needle automatically closes.However, in certain cases small amounts of fluid may continue to leak out of this hole causing spinal headache. In such a situation an epidural blood patch may be offered to the patient.
The process involves autologous blood injection. This means that a small amount of blood is taken out of the veins of the patient and is then injected into the epidural space in close proximity to the site of lumbar puncture or where the hole is present. The blood that is injected clots and causes an increase in pressure which compresses and seals the hole shut. Further leakage of spinal fluid is this prevented and the headache is relieved.
The entire procedure does not take long to perform and patients can be discharged home the same day after a short period of observation. Patients may be requested to lie flat on their back for up to 4 hours following the procedure to allow for healing to begin.
The procedure is relatively safe. However it must be borne in mind that blood injected into a space where it does not belong can be an irritant. As a result, patients may experience mild back pain of leg pain. The chances of any infections occurring as a result the procedure are low as it is performed in sterile conditions.
Patient reports have varied but in most of the cases spinal headaches seem to resolve effectively following an epidural blood patch. In fact, in many cases this treatment can help avoid the requirement for surgery.