Epidural blood patch

I was asked to consult on a 30-something year old patient who had a recent subdural hemorrhage. It was a spontaneous event without trauma. After a week of stabilization of the SDH, the patient started developing positional headaches. CT scan showed a CSF leak from C4-T5 ventrally and another one from T6-T10 dorsally.

CT head: Small evolving right greater than left bilateral subdural hematomas, not significantly changed compared to prior. No evidence of new hemorrhage. Trace right to left midline shift is unchanged.

Cspine/T-spine/L-spine with contrast: Extensive CSF leak. The dominant component of this process is a ventral epidural contrast collection extending from C6-T4 levels, but there is also abnormal dorsal epidural contrast extending from T5-T10. The contrast is densest in the cervicothoracic ventral epidural space, also suggesting that this is the primary leakage site.

MRA neck without acute abnormalities. MRI cervical/thoracic/lumbar spine which incidentally revealed multifocal demyelinating lesions in the cervical cord with a focal lesion at T7 and MRI brain showed multiple foci of T2 flair hyperintensity in the supratentorial white matter of the brain, suspicious for undiagnosed demyelinating disease.

What is a CSF leak?

What is an epidural blood patch?

Recent update on epidural blood patch: Review. Anesth Pain Med 2022;17:12-23.

Typically, anesthesia gets consulted for lumbar epidural blood patches after lumbar CSF leaks. However, in this case, the CSF leak occurs quite high in the cervicothoracic spine. Oftentimes, it’s very difficult to inject a greater volume of blood in the lumbar epidural space due to back pain to reach the higher cervical and thoracic areas.

From Post Dural Puncture Headache – We Can Prevent It. July 2014.

Why not do a lumbar epidural blood patch to reach the cervical or thoracic space?

One question that is often asked is whether CEBPs are necessary, or would lumbar EBPs suffice, even for dural leaks at the cervical levels. There are several reports indicating that lumbar EBP can permanently alleviate the headache regardless of whether or not the site of leakage is identified . However, other reports demonstrate that lumbar EBP does not always result in permanent relief [36–38]. A study by Diaz suggests that the site of leakage should be identified by radioisotope cisternography and treated with EBP targeted to CSF leak site levels . Cousins et al suggested that placement of the EBP close to the site of CSF leakage is important . Studies have shown that blood injected at the lumbar level does reach the cervical levels. Ferrante et al., for instance, performed epidural blood patch at L3-4 and placed in the patient in trendelenburg for 22 hours . He was able to show presence of blood in the epidural space at the cervical levels on postprocedure MRIs. The mean spread of the blood patch in the epidural space has been found to be 4.6 ± 0.9 vertebral levels . Most of the blood spread in the cephalad direction . However, the amount of blood that reaches the higher cervical levels in comparison to the amount of blood needed to form a stable clot is unclear. Despite spread of blood to cervical levels, Beards did note that after an epidural blood patch, the majority of the clot and mass effect appears to be concentrated in the area around the injection site .

Cervical epidural blood patch—A literature review. Pain Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 10, October 2015, Pages 1897–1904.

Efficacy of epidural blood patches for spontaneous low-pressure headaches: a case series. J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2016; 46: 234–7.

Sagittal postmyelogram CT of the cervical and upper thoracic spine showing a ventral epidural contrast collection. VES indicates ventral epidural space; VSS, ventral subarachnoid space; C, cord. From Feasibility of Placement of an Anterior Cervical Epidural Blood Patch for Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension. American Journal of Neuroradiology August 2013, 34 (8) E84-E86

How does one reach a cervical or thoracic epidural space?

Cervical epidural blood patch—A literature review. Pain Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 10, October 2015, Pages 1897–1904.

Epidural Blood Patch at C2: Diagnosis and Treatment of Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension. American Journal of Neuroradiology November 2005, 26 (10) 2663-2666.

Thoracic epidural blood patch with high volume blood for cerebrospinal fluid leakage of cervical spine (C2–3) complicated with spontaneous intracranial hypotension. Acta Anaesthesiologica Taiwanica. Volume 53, Issue 3, September 2015, Pages 112-113.

Thoracic Epidural Blood Patches in the Treatment of Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension: A Retrospective Case Series. Pain Physician 2015; 18:343-348.

A, Postmyelogram CT at the level of the T7–8 disc interspace demonstrates a ventral CSF leak (white arrow) containing contrast with an attenuation slightly less than that of intrathecal contrast. A small spiculated osteophyte (white arrowhead) is the presumed cause for the leak. B, Lateral projection dynamic myelogram of the midthoracic spine confirms the origin of the CSF leak at T7–8. Note the split of the contrast column at this level consistent with a ventral CSF leak (white arrow). From CT Fluoroscopy–Guided Blood Patching of Ventral CSF Leaks by Direct Needle Placement in the Ventral Epidural Space Using a Transforaminal Approach. American Journal of Neuroradiology October 2016, 37 (10) 1951-1956.

Utilizing this information, I thought this patient would be better suited for a CT-guided targeted (cervicothoracic) ventral epidural blood patch performed by the IR team. Additionally, I recommended conservative therapy: hydration, caffeine, Fioricet, lying flat, and an abdominal binder.

CT Fluoroscopy–Guided Blood Patching of Ventral CSF Leaks by Direct Needle Placement in the Ventral Epidural Space Using a Transforaminal Approach. American Journal of Neuroradiology October 2016, 37 (10) 1951-1956.

Feasibility of Placement of an Anterior Cervical Epidural Blood Patch for Spontaneous Intracranial Hypotension. American Journal of Neuroradiology August 2013, 34 (8) E84-E86.

Paravertebral Block and Catheters

Review: Thoracic Paravertebral Block. Anesthesiology. Sept 2001.

Ultrasound-Guided Paravertebral Block Anaesthesia Tutorial of the Week. April 2018. Tutorial #376.

YouTube: PVB catheter technique

YouTube: LSORA U/S-guided PVB

YouTube: U/S-guided PVB by Block Jocks

YouTube: nerveblocks U/S-guided PVB

YouTube: thoracic PVB and anatomy

YouTube: Ottawa Hospital PVB

From SPPM Newsletter


Nov 2021:


Insertion of paravertebral block catheters intraoperatively to reduce incidence of block failure. Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2012 May; 14(5): 648–649.

Continuous paravertebral block using a thoracoscopic catheter-insertion technique for postoperative pain after thoracotomy: a retrospective case-control study. Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery volume 12, Article number: 5 (2017)

From The mid‐point transverse process to pleura (MTP) block: a new end‐point for thoracic paravertebral block. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anae.14004
Table 3. Drug and Dosage for Thoracic Paravertebral Block

A Systematic Review of Randomized Trials Evaluating Regional Techniques for Postthoracotomy Analgesia. Anesthesia & Analgesia:September 2008 – Volume 107 – Issue 3 – p 1026-1040

Thoracic surgery: PVB, SAPB, TEpi, ESP block, Precedex

Paravertebral Catheter Use for Postoperative Pain Control in Patients After Lung Transplant Surgery: A Prospective Observational Study.  JCVA February 2017. Volume 31, Issue 1, Pages 142–146.

To place the PV catheter at the T4-5 level, the authors used an in-plane transverse technique under ultrasound guidance, with the probe in a transverse orientation. After identifying the anatomic landmarks on ultrasound, a 17-gauge Tuohy needle was advanced in a lateral to medial direction, until the tip was beneath the transverse process. For all recipients in the study, the authors further confirmed correct PV catheter placement with real-time infusion of a local anesthetic (1-3 mL of 1.5% lidocaine with epinephrine 1:200,000); they were able to visualize on ultrasound the spread from the tip of the catheter.

Once it was confirmed that the tip remained in position, the PV catheter was secured with skin glue (Dermabond®, Ethicon, Inc.; Somerville, NJ). Next, at the PV catheter insertion site, the authors placed an occlusive dressing on a chlorhexidine-impregnated sponge (BioPatch®, Johnson & Johnson Wound Management, a division of Ethicon, Inc.; Somerville, NJ). The PV catheter was connected to an elastomeric pump (ON-Q®, Halyard Health, Alpharetta, GA), an infusion of 0.2% ropivacaine was started at a rate of 0.2 to 0.25 mL/kg/h; the maximum dose was 7 mL/h per side in bilateral lung transplant recipients and 14 mL/h in unilateral single-lung transplant recipients.


Ultrasound-Guided Serratus Anterior Plane Block Versus Thoracic Epidural Analgesia for Thoracotomy Pain. JCVA February 2017. Volume 31, Issue 1, Pages 152–158.

Under sterile conditions and while patients still were in the lateral position with the diseased side up, a linear ultrasound transducer (10-12 MHz) was placed in a sagittal plane over the midclavicular region of the thoracic cage. Then the ribs were counted down until the fifth rib was identified in the midaxillary line (Fig 1).18 The following muscles were identified overlying the fifth rib: the latissimus dorsi (superficial and posterior), teres major (superior), and serratus muscles (deep and inferior). The needle (a 22-gauge, 50-mm Touhy needle) was introduced in plane with respect to the ultrasound probe, targeting the plane superficial to the serratus anterior muscle (Fig 2). Under continuous ultrasound guidance, 30 mL of 0.25% levobupivacaine was injected, and then a catheter was threaded. A continuous infusion of 5 mL/hour of 0.125% levobupivacaine then was started through the catheter.

From http://painandpsa.org/rnb/

Erector Spinae Plane Block

Effect of Continuous Paravertebral Dexmedetomidine Administration on Intraoperative Anesthetic Drug Requirement and Post-Thoracotomy Pain Syndrome After Thoracotomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JCVA February 2017. Volume 31, Issue 1, Pages 159–165.

Adjuvants to prolong regional anesthesia

ERAS for Cardiac Surgery

ERAS for cardiac surgery. #eras #pain #multimodal #opioids #surgery #cardiac #perfusion #perfusionist

I have been utilizing ERAS in general surgery, OB, and ortho cases. Diving into one of my more tricky populations, I opted to see what ERAS practices are out there for cardiac surgery. Careful what you look for my friends. There’s actually a good amount of information out there!

Updated: Dec 2021

Up-To-Date: Anesthetic management for enhanced recovery after cardiac surgery (ERACS). Nov 2021.

Guidelines for Perioperative Care in Cardiac SurgeryEnhanced Recovery After Surgery Society Recommendations.  JAMA Surg. 2019;154(8):755-766. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2019.1153

ERAS CS: Opioid Reduction Strategies in Cardiac Surgery – STS 8 in 8 Series. Sept 2020.

ERAS CS: Standardizing Evidence Based Best Practice in Periopertive Cardiac Surgical Care. Nov 2020.

CTSNet: “Cardiac Surgery Re-start and Beyond – Optimizing ICU Resource Utilization and Patient Safety”. Sept 2020.

CTSNet: “Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery Part II: Intraoperative and Postoperative.” June 2019.

CTSNet: ERAS Guidelines for Perioperative Care in Cardiac Surgery. July 2019.

ACCRAC podcast: ERAS for Cardiac Surgery

ERAS Cardiac Consensus Abstract – April 2018

Enhanced recovery after surgery pathway for patients undergoing cardiac surgery: a randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, Volume 54, Issue 3, 1 September 2018, Pages 491–497, https://doi.org/10.1093/ejcts/ezy100

** Audio PPT ** American Association for Thoracic Surgery: Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery. April 2018

The impact of enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocol compliance on morbidity from resection for primary lung cancer. The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. April 2018Volume 155, Issue 4, Pages 1843–1852.

Enhanced Recovery for Cardiac Surgery. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2018 Jan 31. pii: S1053-0770(18)30049-1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jvca.2018.01.045

From Journal of Anesthesiology

A pilot goal-directed perfusion initiative is associated with less acute kidney injury after cardiac surgery. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2017 Jan;153(1):118-125.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2016.09.016. Epub 2016 Sep 19.

Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery Society

**Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery Society Expert Recommendations**

My blog posts:

Key Points

  • Level 1 (Class of recommendation=Strong Benefit):
    • Tranexamic acid or epsilon aminocaproic acid should be administered for on-pump cardiac surgical procedures to reduce blood loss.
    • Perioperative glycemic control is recommended (BS 70-180; [110-150]).
    • A care bundle of best practices should be performed to reduce surgical site infection.
    • Goal-directed therapy should be performed to reduce postoperative complications.
    • A multimodal, opioid-sparing, pain management plan is recommended postoperatively
    • Persistent hypothermia (T<35o C) after CPB should be avoided in the early postoperative period. Additionally, hyperthermia (T>38oC) should be avoided in the early postoperative period.
    • Active maintenance of chest tube patency is effective at preventing retained blood syndrome.
    • Post-operative systematic delirium screening is recommended at least once per nursing shift.
    • An ICU liberation bundle should be implemented including delirium screening, appropriate sedation and early mobilization.
    • Screening and treatment for excessive alcohol and cigarette smoking should be performed preoperatively when feasible.
  • Level IIa (Class of recommendation=Moderate Benefit)
    • Biomarkers can be beneficial in identifying patients at risk for acute kidney injury.
    • Rigid sternal fixation can be useful to reduce mediastinal wound complications.
    • Prehabilitation is beneficial for patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery with multiple comorbidities or significant deconditioning.
    • Insulin infusion is reasonable to be performed to treat hyperglycemia in all patients in the perioperative period.
    • Early extubation strategies after surgery are reasonable to be employed.
    • Patient engagement through online or application-based systems to promote education, compliance, and patient reported outcomes can be useful.
    • Chemical thromboprophylaxis can be beneficial following cardiac surgery.
    • Preoperative assessment of hemoglobin A1c and albumin is reasonable to be performed.
    • Correction of nutritional deficiency, when feasible, can be beneficial.
  • Level IIb (Class of recommendation=Weak Benefit)
    • A clear liquid diet may be considered to be continued up until 4 hours before general anesthesia.
    • Carbohydrate loading may be considered before surgery.

ERAS for cardiac surgery. Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia



Cardiac ERAS. JCVA 2020. PDF.

**Guidelines for Perioperative Care in Cardiac SurgeryEnhanced Recovery After Surgery Society Recommendations. JAMA, May 2019.**

Erector Spinae Plane Block

After speaking to a colleague of mine regarding regional anesthesia for thoracotomy and mastectomy, I am reading up on Erector Spinae Plane (ESP) block.

**Updated May 2022**


The erector spinae plane block: a narrative review. Korean J Anesthesiol. 2019 Jun; 72(3): 209–220.

Other regional blocks

Continuous ESP block catheter (my current regimen and what I’m able to get at my institution):

  • Braun Periflex catheter through 17g epidural needle
  • Cranial-to-caudal approach @ T5 (mastectomy, vats, rib fractures)
  • 20ml 0.25% bupi + epi prior to catheter
  • Catheter 5cm in space
  • 5 ml 0.25% bupi + epi after catheter placed
  • Mix: 0.125% bupi + fentanyl @ 10 ml/hr
  • If PCEA available, bolus 15ml every 3 hours; continuous as mix above.

Double lung transplant

The pt was relatively young and rather cachectic, weighing at most 40kg.  Primary reason for the dlt was primary pulm htn. PA pressures were quite high in the 60s-80s. RV showed pressure overload.  However, the procedure went well.