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Meningeal (Postdural) Puncture Headache, Unintentional Dural Puncture, and the Epidural Blood Patch: A National Survey of United States Practice
  1. Brian E. Harrington, MD* and
  2. Andrew M. Schmitt, MD
  1. From the *Department of Anesthesiology, Billings Clinic Hospital, Billings, MT; and
  2. Department of Anesthesiology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.
  1. Address correspondence to: Brian E. Harrington, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Billings Clinic Hospital, PO Box 1837, Billings, MT 59103 (e-mail: bhbillings{at}


Background: Meningeal (postdural) puncture headache (MPH) is a familiar iatrogenic complication. The optimal means of prevention, management, and treatment of this disorder are uncertain. The purpose of this study was to determine current practice among United States (USA) anesthesiologists regarding MPH as well as the related issues of unintentional dural puncture (UDP), the epidural blood patch (EBP), and proposed alternatives to the EBP.

Methods: A survey form was sent as a single mailing to each practicing USA member of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine in June 2006.

Results: Data were analyzed from 1024 returned survey forms (29.4% response rate). Major findings were as follows: Written institutional protocols for managing UDP and MPH are uncommon. The preferred method of immediately dealing with an UDP when providing analgesia for labor is to reattempt the epidural at another level (73.4%). When intrathecal catheters are used for labor analgesia, they are most often removed immediately after delivery (56.5%). After UDP in the obstetric setting, aggressive hydration and encouraging bed rest are the most frequently used prophylactic measures against the development of MPH. Frequently used treatment options for MPH include aggressive hydration, the EBP, oral caffeine, oral nonopioid analgesics, and bed rest. With the exception of a uniform blood volume (16-20 mL), procedural details of the EBP vary considerably among practitioners. The use of materials other than blood for epidural patch is uncommon.

Conclusions: Various measures, many poorly supported by the literature, are used prophylactically after UDP and in the treatment of MPH. Despite being nearly universally used as treatment of MPH, the EBP procedure itself remains largely nonstandardized.

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  • Financial support: None.

  • This study was presented in abstract form at the American Society of Anesthesiologists Annual Meeting, October 13-17, 2007, San Francisco, Calif.