Epistaxis: Outpatient Management

Am Fam Physician. 2018 Aug 15;98(4):240-245.


Epistaxis is a common emergency encountered by primary care physicians. Up to 60% of the general population experience epistaxis, and 6% seek medical attention for it. More than 90% of cases arise from the anterior nasal circulation, and most treatments can be easily performed in the outpatient setting. Evaluation of a patient presenting with epistaxis should begin with assessment of vital signs, mental status, and airway patency. When examining the nose, a nasal speculum and a good light source, such as a headlamp, can be useful. Compressive therapy is the first step to controlling anterior epistaxis. Oxymetazoline nasal spray or application of cotton soaked in oxymetazoline or epinephrine 1: 1,000 may be useful adjuncts to compressive therapy. Directive nasal cautery, most commonly using silver nitrate, can be used to control localized continued bleeding or prominent vessels that are the suspected bleeding source. Finally, topical therapy and nasal packing can be used if other methods are unsuccessful. Compared with anterior epistaxis, posterior epistaxis is more likely to require hospitalization and twice as likely to need nasal packing. Posterior nasal packing is often associated with pain and a risk of aspiration if it is dislodged. After stabilization, patients with posterior packing often require referral to otolaryngology or the emergency department for definitive treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • Epistaxis* / diagnosis
  • Epistaxis* / physiopathology
  • Epistaxis* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Nose* / anatomy & histology
  • Nose* / blood supply
  • Patient Care Management / methods*