Background and objectives: Postdural puncture headache (PDPH) is a morbidity that occurs frequently after lumbar puncture. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of needle diameter and tip configuration in causing PDPH. The incidence of PDPH was evaluated in parturients because this group of patients is at high risk for developing PDPH and because they often undergo lumbar puncture for spinal anesthesia.
Methods: The incidence of PDPH after spinal anesthesia with 26- and 27-gauge Quincke and 25-gauge Whitacre needles was studied in a series of 4,125 parturients undergoing spinal anesthesia over a 4-year period. Data were also collected on the incidence of PDPH with 17-gauge Huber-tipped Weiss needles in 21,578 parturients receiving lumbar epidural analgesia and/or anesthesia over the same interval. Additionally, the need to treat PDPH with epidural blood patch in all of these patients was studied.
Results: The incidence of PDPH was 5.2% with 26-gauge Quincke needles (1987-1989), 2.7% with 27-gauge Quincke needles (1989-1990), and 1.2% with 25-gauge Whitacre needles (1990-1991). During the same periods, the incidence of PDPH with 17-gauge Weiss needles averaged 1.1%, 1.7% and 1.2%, respectively. As compared with the 26-gauge Quincke needle, there was a lower incidence of PDPH with the 27-gauge Quincke (P < .006) and 25-gauge Whitacre spinal needles (P < .001). The incidence of PDPH with the 25-gauge Whitacre needle was less than that with the 27-gauge Quincke needle (P < .05), and it was similar to the overall rate of headache, which occurs occasionally from accidental dural puncture during the performance of lumbar epidural analgesia/anesthesia for labor and cesarean delivery (P = .974). The need for treating PDPH with epidural blood patching was greatest with the 17-gauge Weiss epidural needle (75.3% of cases), but was similar with the various spinal needles (13-39%). However, because the Whitacre needle produced the fewest PDPHs, it was associated with the lowest absolute requirement for epidural blood patching.
Conclusions: The morbidity associated with lumbar puncture can be decreased by selecting the proper needle gauge and tip configuration. Use of the smallest gauge needle and one that has a noncutting Whitacre tip produces the lowest incidence of PDPH in parturients, a group of patients at increased risk for developing PDPH.