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Understanding the Risks of Anesthesia

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Updated April 09, 2014

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Epidural Anesthesia and Headache
regional-epidural anesthesia

Epidural Anesthesia Image

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Approximately 1% to 2% of patients who have had a spinal epidural, a type of regional anesthesia, suffer a severe headache after the medication is given. An epidural is given by injecting a numbing medication into the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds the spine. If the spinal fluid leaks from the injection site, the decrease in spinal fluid causes a severe headache.

The headache is treated with pain medication or a “blood patch.” For a blood patch, a small amount of the patient's own blood is injected a closely as possible to the original epidural site where it can clot and stop the loss of cerebral spinal fluid.

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