Healthsheet

Headache After Spinal Tap (With Patch)

Headache After Spinal Tap (With Patch)

Spinal fluid fills the space around the brain and spinal cord. This fluid acts like a cushion. During a spinal tap procedure, a needle is passed through the membrane that surrounds the spinal canal. This allows the doctor to remove a small sample of spinal fluid. This fluid provides important information about the health of your brain and spinal cord. Normally, as the needle is removed, the puncture hole seals off and no more fluid comes out. However, sometimes the hole does not seal properly and spinal fluid leaks into the nearby tissues.

If there is a loss of too much spinal fluid from a leak at the puncture site, the spinal fluid pressure goes down and a headache occurs. This headache may be mild or severe. The pain is often worse when you sit or stand and gets better or goes away when you lie down. There may also be dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision. The headache usually goes away within 24 hours. But when the headache is very severe or lasts longer than 24 hours special treatments can be given to stop the leak.

Your leak has been treated with a "blood patch." This involves drawing a sample of your own blood and injecting it next to the puncture hole. This forms a blood clot that presses against the hole to stop the leak and increase the fluid pressure. Most people start to feel better within 30 minutes after the procedure. Improvement usually continues over the next several days. In a small percent of cases, the headache continues or may come back. In that case, a second procedure or another treatment may be needed.

Home care

  • Once you get home, rest lying down for 12 hours.
  • As much as possible, avoid sitting or standing during the first 12 hours. It's OK to get up to eat and go to the bathroom for short periods of time.
  • Drink extra fluids for the next 24 hours. On a normal day, healthy men should have about 125 ounces (3.7 liters) of total water, from all beverages and food per day. Healthy women should take in about 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of total water, from all beverages and food per day.
  • Caffeine can help this type of headache. Unless told otherwise, you may drink coffee or another caffeinated drink.
  • If you were given medicine for nausea, take it as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if any of these occur:

  • Headache remains severe for more than a few hours after the procedure
  • Headache gets worse with sitting or standing
  • Vomiting repeatedly (unable to keep liquids down)
  • Numbness or tingling of the legs
  • Unable to pass urine
  • Bleeding or pain at the injection site
  • Confusion or trouble thinking
  • Fever (1 degree above your normal temperature) lasting for 24 to 48 hours, or whatever your healthcare provider told you to report based on your medical condition