Posterior Epistaxis: Identification of Common Bleeding Sites



Objective: The objective of this study was to determine common bleeding sites in the nasal cavity of patients with posterior epistaxis and thus review our management protocol.

Study Design: A prospective study was carried out from 1989 to November 2003 in the otolaryngology—head and neck surgery department of a tertiary referral center. This study included patients who presented with posterior epistaxis uncontrolled with standard nasal packing and with no identifiable bleeding point on examination under local anesthesia.

Method: All patients underwent a formal examination under general anesthesia by the senior author of this article. Findings at examination were documented along with subsequent management and its outcome.

Results: Forty-three patients were included in this study. Bleeding points were identified in 36 cases. Seven patients had septal bleeding points (20%). The rest were located on the lateral nasal wall (81%). Of these, 4 were on the lateral wall of inferior meatus, 7 on the lateral surface of inferior turbinate, 8 on the lateral wall of middle meatus, and 10 on the lateral surface of middle turbinate. All were located posteriorly.

Conclusions: We recommend examination under general anesthesia when conservative measures fail to control bleeding, concentrating on the posterior aspect of the lateral nasal wall. In addition, the lateral aspect of the middle and inferior turbinates may contain a groove within which bleeding points may be concealed. The lateral position of most bleeding sites indicates that use of nasal packing can only attempt to indirectly tamponade blood flow and is rarely justified bilaterally. Electrothermocautery can achieve excellent results with minimal complications. Failure to identify a bleeding point, after thorough examination under general anesthesia, does not require further intervention unless complicated by further bleeding.