Post-epidural headache: How late can it occur?

Brian V. Reamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Complications of labor epidural anesthesia include a post-dural puncture headache (PDPH). A 2003 meta-analysis described the onset of PDPH as occurring from 1 to 7 days after the procedure. Presented here is the first published case of a PDPH occurring 12 days postpartum. Methods: Twelve days after an uncomplicated labor epidural a patient was awakened by a "crushing" postural headache. The initial diagnosis was "possible subarachnoid hemorrhage." Lumbar puncture and computed tomography angiogram were normal. Despite medications a severe postural headache persisted and she was referred for an epidural blood patch. Consultants felt the headache onset after 7 days made PDPH impossible. Ultimately a delayed EBP was performed with immediate resolution of her headache. Discussion: Meta-analyses describe that parturients have a 1.5% risk of accidental dural puncture during epidural placement. Onset of the headache occurs as early as 1 or as late as 7 days after the procedure. Epidural blood patch is the most effective treatment for PDPH and a rapid response is diagnostic. Conclusion: Described is the first reported case of a PDPH occurring well outside the normal range of onset 1 to 7 days after epidural anesthesia. The delayed diagnosis and treatment of PDPH in this patient illustrates the limitations of over-rigorous application of pooled analyses to the care of individual patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-205
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


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