Delayed epistaxis resulting from external carotid artery injury requiring embolization: a rare complication of transsphenoidal surgery: case report

Neurosurgery. 2000 Jul;47(1):236-9. doi: 10.1097/00006123-200007000-00052.


Objective and importance: Delayed epistaxis resulting from trauma to branches of the external carotid artery is an infrequent but potentially serious complication of transsphenoidal surgery. We report two cases of severe, delayed epistaxis in patients who had undergone transsphenoidal surgery. In both cases, noninvasive treatment failed, necessitating endovascular intervention.

Clinical presentation: The first patient, a 52-year-old woman with a prolactinoma, underwent a second transsphenoidal resection 18 months after the first surgery. She was readmitted on postoperative Day 15 with massive epistaxis. The second patient, a 40-year-old woman, had undergone two transsphenoidal surgeries, 14 years apart, for an adrenocorticotropic hormone-secreting adenoma. She was readmitted with massive epistaxis on postoperative Day 17.

Intervention: Both patients were initially treated with nasal balloon packing but experienced recurrent hemorrhage when the balloon was deflated, necessitating referral to the interventional radiology department for embolization. At arteriography, the first patient was found to have a pseudoaneurysm of the medial branch of the left internal maxillary artery, which was subsequently embolized. Arteriography in the second patient revealed an abnormally dilated midline branch of the right internal maxillary artery in the nasal septum; this vessel was occluded at arteriography.

Conclusion: Delayed massive epistaxis is a rare but significant complication of transsphenoidal surgery. Injury to branches of the external carotid artery, along with injury to the internal carotid artery, should be suspected in patients who present with delayed epistaxis after transsphenoidal surgery. Angiography performed in patients with refractory bleeding should include selective external carotid injections. Epistaxis that is refractory to anterior and posterior nasal packing may be effectively treated with endovascular embolization.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carotid Artery Injuries / therapy*
  • Carotid Artery, External*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Epistaxis / etiology*
  • Epistaxis / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors