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Long-term complications of unintentional dural puncture during labor epidural analgesia: a case–control study


Introduction Epidural analgesia is the preferred method to manage pain during labor and delivery. The insertion of the epidural catheter can be complicated by unintentional dural puncture that may result in postdural puncture headache. There is limited evidence on the long-term implications of this complication. We sought to investigate if women who sustained a dural puncture have a higher risk of developing chronic headache, low back pain and visual or auditory impairment.

Methods We conducted a 1:1 case–control study with women who delivered at our institution from January 2015 to December 2019. Cases were women who received epidural analgesia and sustained an unintentional dural puncture, and controls were women who received epidural analgesia but did not sustain such complication. We matched cases and controls for date of delivery, age, and body mass index. All women completed an online survey with validated questionnaires for diagnosis of chronic headache and chronic back pain. We used dichotomic (yes/no) questions to look for the presence of chronic visual and auditory impairment.

Results Sixty-three case–control pairs were studied. Women who sustained a dural puncture during their epidural catheter insertion had a higher risk of developing chronic headache (14.3%, vs 4.8%, p=0.057, adjusted OR (AOR): 3.67 (95% CI 1.05 to 12.82)) and chronic back pain (39.7% vs 19.1%, p=0.009, AOR: 2.67 (95% CI 1.25 to 5.72)) than women who did not sustain a dural puncture. The incidence of chronic auditory impairment was also higher in the dural puncture group (14.3% vs 1.6%, p=0.01, AOR: 9.98 (95% CI 1.21 to 82.62)).

Conclusions An unintentional dural puncture during epidural catheter insertion in parturients is associated with increased risk of chronic headache, back pain and auditory impairment.

  • Post-Dural Puncture Headache
  • Obstetrics
  • Back Pain

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. Not applicable.

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