#67 – Epistaxis




  • Kiesselbach’s Plexus (Little’s area)
    • Confluence of three main vessels
      • Septal branch of the anterior ethmoidal artery
      • Lateral nasal branch of the sphenopalatine artery
      • Septal branch of the superior labial branch of the facial artery


  • Woodruff’s Plexus
    • Posteriorlateral branches of the sphenopalatine artery
      • Posterior inferior turbinate


  • Up to 60% of population will experience a significant nosebleed each year
    • Only 10% need to seek attention
  • Common ENT admission condition, but rarely needs surgical intervention
  • Bimodal age distribution
    • Before 10 years or between 45-65 years
  • Male predominance before the age of 49, then equalizes
    • Estrogen has been shown to protective for mucosa
  • Anterior bleeds are significantly more common (>90%) and resolve with minor interventions
  • Posterior bleeds can result in significant hemorrhage


  • Nose picking
  • Low environmental moisture
  • Mucosal hyperemia of viral or allergic rhinitis
  • Trauma
  • Foreign body
  • Anticoagulation
  • Coagulopathies
    • Osler-Weber-Rendu, von Willebrand, hemophilias
  • Connective tissue disease
    • Aneurysm development
  • Neoplasm
    • Squamous cell, inverted papilloma
  • Hypertension
    • Debated as a cause, but has shown to prolong bleeding
  • Nasal medications
    • Steroids, oxymetazoline
  • Heart failure

Patient Assessment

  • Primary
    • Airway assessment
      • RR, O2
    • Cardiovascular stability
      • HR, BP
  • Secondary
    • History
      • Medications
        • Anticoagulation, aspirin, nasal medications
      • PMH
        • Bleeding disorders, HTN, liver disease
        • Recent trauma
        • History of nosebleeds
          • How often, how long do they last, ever been admitted for one
  • Diagnostic Studies
    • Coagulation studies should NOT be routinely ordered
      • Should be in patients on anticoagulation
    • In patients with prolonged bleeds:
      • CBC
      • Type and cross
  • Examination
    • Have patient blow nose to remove clots and blood
    • Examine nasal cavity to see if you can see the bleeding site
      • Otoscope, nasal speculum
      • Don’t have patient tilt head back
        • Nasopharynx lies in anteroposterior plane and this will obscure the majority of the cavity from view


  • Initial (Woodpecker/Walrus technique)
    • Have patient blow nose to remove clots
    • In a small basin mix any or all of the following:
      • Oxymetazoline
      • Lidocaine with epinephrine
      • Tranexamic acid
      • If available, soak GelFoam/Surgicel in this fluid and place BEFORE the sponge sticks
    • Trim two oral sponge swabs to better fit in the nasal cavity and soak in the fluid
    • Make a nasal bridge clamp by taping two tongue depressors together on one end
    • Place swabs in nasal cavities and apply nasal clamp for 10-15 minutes
    • Ice pack can also be used
  • Cautery
    • If the bleeding site can be visualized on direct examination
    • Apply topical anesthetic
    • Silver nitrate sticks
      • Start from periphery and roll to center of bleeding
      • No more than 10 seconds
      • A white eschar should form
  • Nasal packing
    • Use if cautery fails
    • Ensure topical anesthesia
    • Soak in sterile water
    • Insert by sliding along the floor of the nasal cavity PARALLEL to floor
    • Insufflate the balloon with air
  • Nasal Balloon Catheters
    • For posterior bleeds
    • Follow same steps for nasal packing
    • Insufflate posterior balloon FIRST and apply gently traction
    • Then insufflate the anterior balloon
  • Foley Catheters
    • If you don’t have a prefabricated nasal balloons, a foley catheter can work
    • Insert the catheter until you can see it in the posterior oropharynx
    • Insufflate with 5-10cc of water
    • Apply traction to seat balloon in posterior choana
    • Add additional water to tamponade
    • Clamp catheter with umbilical clamp or c-clamp from NG tube

Disposition and Follow-up

  • For simple nasal packing, patients should be evaluated by ENT within 24-48 hours
    • Discuss with consultant need for antibiotic prophylaxis
      • No good evidence supports routine use, but ENT often prefers
        • Amoxicillin-Clavulanate is most commonly used
        • Clindamycin or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should be used if concern for nasal carrier of MRSA
  • Posterior bleeds should be immediately assessed by ENT for potential surgical intervention
    • Endoscopic sphenopalatine artery ligation
    • Anterior ethmoid artery ligation
      • Open or endoscopic

1893 Cottage Physician


  1. Kucik CJ, Clenney T. Management of epistaxis. Am Fam Physician. 2005; 71(2):305-11. [pubmed]
  2. Villwock JA, Jones K. Recent Trends in Epistaxis Management in the United States JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013; 139(12):1279-84. [pubmed]
  3. Kotecha B, Fowler S, Harkness P, Walmsley J, Brown P, Topham J. Management of epistaxis: a national survey. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1996; 78(5):444-6. [PDF]
  4. Fishpool SJ, Tomkinson A. Patterns of hospital admission with epistaxis for 26,725 patients over an 18-year period in Wales, UK. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012; 94(8):559-62. [PDF]
  5. Min HJ, Kang H, Choi GJ, Kim KS. Association between Hypertension and Epistaxis: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017; 157(6):921-927. [pubmed]
  6. Shakeel M, Trinidade A, Iddamalgoda T, Supriya M, Ah-See KW. Routine clotting screen has no role in the management of epistaxis: reiterating the point. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2010; 267(10):1641-4. [pubmed]
  7. Lin G, Bleier B. Surgical Management of Severe Epistaxis. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2016; 49(3):627-37. [pubmed]

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