This is My Spinal Tap

In my previous article where I talk about my diagnosis story of hemiplegic migraines, I wrote about getting Botox and the results for me. This story takes place after my initial round of Botox and what came as a result of what happened.

Getting sick after a spinal tap

In order to rule out any type of infection, it was determined I would need a spinal tap. When it came to the day of my procedure, things went extremely smooth. I was lucky, in the fact that I did not even feel the needle, the poke… anything. It wasn’t until about 2 days later that I became extremely sick; vomiting, migraine, a whole plethora of symptoms.

I rang my neurologist and explained what was going on, as I was warned that leaks can occur during spinal taps. And it did. I was told to make my way to the ER to get prepped for a blood patch.

Needing a blood patch at the ER

I soon found myself in an emergency room, filled with bags of saline, pain meds and a bucket to vomit into. Also inside that room was a team of anesthesiologists, nurses, and many other ER staff. At one point, I counted 7 doctors and staff in the room with me. This was important, as the room had to be 100% sterile in order to complete the blood patch.

A blood patch is when they take a clean sample of your blood and immediately inject it where your spinal tap was done. Sometimes, blood patches are done immediately after the spinal tap, but this was not the case for me. Had I known the possible complications, I may have actually advocated for one.

So, then came the time to sit up and be absolutely still while one doctor held me in place, another got ready to inject it and the nurses would then get the clean blood draw. This is where things start to go wrong. We went through the scenario and the steps of the procedure out loud about 3 times before actually attempting this, so everyone in the room understood the sterile process.

Receiving great care despite some hiccups

Unfortunately, it took about 5 attempts for the nurses and doctors in the room to get the procedure completely sterile, because some of the staff kept forgetting once they touched the inside of their glove to take it off, things were no longer sterile. I sat in this position for about 25 minutes and 2 failed epidurals later, I wasn’t leaning against the anesthesiologist, I was now clutching this poor man. He was kind and gentle and he talked to me through the entire process that should have been about 3 minutes total. I’m grateful for the great care I received that afternoon, despite the hiccups.

Normal test results

So what was all this for and what was the result of my original spinal tap?

Well, they needed to rule out some things like infections (meningitis, encephaly) to make sure that I didn’t have something underlying that was causing all of my issues, pain, and vomiting. The results were normal, thankfully, but we still didn’t have many answers as to why it led me into the operating room, to begin with.

Overall, spinal taps are NOT bad at all, it’s the failed epidurals that were truly the worst part of it. Spinal taps are easy and you hardly feel a thing. If you are ever to need one, consider asking for a blood patch during the procedure before getting the spinal headache that feels like your skull is cracking from the inside out.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (8)
  • vshaynes
    2 months ago

    I first experienced this when I gave birth to my son. Due to some serious complications, the gave me an injection in my spinal cord to numb me from the waist down. I had an excruciating headache for 3 days that was unbearable if I was sitting, standing or laying flat. The doctor finally recognized that this was a result of my puncture. They didn’t do blood patches then (40 years ago). Instead they wrapped my in ace bandages from by breast to my hips to put pressure on my spine and allow the spinal fluid to rebuild. Took about a week. Not fun with a newborn and trying to nurse him. One of the worst migraines ever. I ALWAYS request a blood patch if they do a spinal.

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    2 months ago

    It’s unfortunate that we have to learn these things from others & not be well-informed 100% of the time. Obviously, time has passed in your case, but that sounds miserable & preventable! Best, Kelly, Team Member

  • Nikita212
    2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I had temporary global amnesia (related to migraine). The residents in the hospital decided to do a spinal tap on me and never warned me to lie still after the procedure.

    The next day I was flying home from my business trip and just before getting on the plane, experienced the mother of all migraines.

    I wasn’t sure I could fly, but my sister was with me and called my doctor. She told my sister to get me on the plane and I would be admitted to the hospital upon landing.

    The upshot of all this is that I have had chronic migraines ever since. Was it initiated by the spinal or the temporary global amnesia? I’ll never know…

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh Nikita!! The minute I read “airplane” my heart dropped for you.

    I’m so glad things (mysteriously) dissolved for you!! This is the best type of comment we can receive. Thank you for your comment! Kelly, Team Member

  • DamselflyStudio
    2 months ago

    Thankfully, through the many LPs I had to endure because of Intracranial Hypertension, I never had a leak. However, those many LPs, along with a lumbar shunt contribute to the severity of the herniation of Chiari Malformation and the Syringomyelia that followed.

    If you do need an LP, proceed with caution. Make sure the doctor doing the procedure is very experienced. If it can be done under fluoroscopy, you are saver. Same goes for epidurals. Puncturing the epidural covering of the spinal canal is risky.

    Also, if you have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder where the collagen is lacking a protein that keeps it from being too elastic, you may be more prone to leaks from Lumbar punctures and need a blood patch.

    After an LP, lay flat, drink caffeine, up your salt intake. ?This will raise your blood pressure and raise your spinal pressure.

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    2 months ago

    Thank you for your comment! There certainly is a lot a patient must be informed about before procedures like this, especially if they are done in an emergent situation. I think, had I known about my personal risks of getting a leak, I would have requested a blood patch during my initial LP. Certainly would have saved me a lot of pain, worry & financial stress. Kelly, Team member

  • marycr8on
    2 months ago

    Oh, how I wish I knew about blood patches when I had a spinal tap! I was flat on my back for a week. I could hardly eat or even drink water. Walking to the bathroom was an ordeal and more like crawling to the bathroom. I’ve never felt worse in my life. Like you, there wasn’t anything unusual with the fluid, so all that pain and agony was really for nothing.

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hi Mary! I hear you on the blood patch information. This is why we as patients must speak up and help to inform others about some of the procedures and tests we may encounter (MRIs, CTs, Lumbar Puncture), etc. Kelly, Team member

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