Postpartum headaches: summary report of the National Obstetric Anaesthetic Database (NOAD) 1999

Int J Obstet Anesth. 2003 Apr;12(2):107-12. doi: 10.1016/S0959-289X(03)00007-4.


The National Obstetric Anaesthetic Database was established in 1998 to support collection of national data on obstetric analgesia and anaesthesia. The first year's project aimed to determine the incidence, characteristics, contributing factors and management of postpartum headaches with anaesthetic interventions. A total of 65348 women were reported to have had anaesthetic interventions. There were individual records of 404 women in whom postdural puncture headache (PDPH) was diagnosed (47 mild, 134 moderate, 202 severe and 21 unspecified) and 571 in whom headache was not related to dural puncture (315 mild, 176 moderate, 44 severe and 36 unspecified). Recognised dural puncture occurred in 165 women (41%), 130 (79%) during labour. Placement of spinal catheters on dural puncture in 51 women did not influence headache severity. Abdominal compression used to test the diagnosis of PDPH was only positive in 56/186 parturients (30%). Epidural blood patch was performed in 240 women with PDPH, of whom 101 women (42%) received their first blood patch within two days of delivery. The incidence of headache ranged from 1.1% to 1.9% between all anaesthetic techniques but increased to 11% for women receiving multiple regional anaesthetics. The predominant characteristics of PDPH were limitation of daily activity (n=305, 75%), severity (moderate/severe) and a postural element (n = 325, 80%), all significantly different from headache from other causes (P = 0.001). Shoulder/neck stiffness (n=172, 43%) was the commonest symptom associated with PDPH.