Objective: Nosebleed, also known as epistaxis, is a common problem that occurs at some point in at least 60% of people in the United States. While the great majority of nosebleeds are limited in severity and duration, about 6% of people who experience nosebleeds will seek medical attention. For the purposes of this guideline, we define the target patient with a nosebleed as a patient with bleeding from the nostril, nasal cavity, or nasopharynx that is sufficient to warrant medical advice or care. This includes bleeding that is severe, persistent, and/or recurrent, as well as bleeding that impacts a patient's quality of life. Interventions for nosebleeds range from self-treatment and home remedies to more intensive procedural interventions in medical offices, emergency departments, hospitals, and operating rooms. Epistaxis has been estimated to account for 0.5% of all emergency department visits and up to one-third of all otolaryngology-related emergency department encounters. Inpatient hospitalization for aggressive treatment of severe nosebleeds has been reported in 0.2% of patients with nosebleeds.
Purpose: The primary purpose of this multidisciplinary guideline is to identify quality improvement opportunities in the management of nosebleeds and to create clear and actionable recommendations to implement these opportunities in clinical practice. Specific goals of this guideline are to promote best practices, reduce unjustified variations in care of patients with nosebleeds, improve health outcomes, and minimize the potential harms of nosebleeds or interventions to treat nosebleeds. The target patient for the guideline is any individual aged ≥3 years with a nosebleed or history of nosebleed who needs medical treatment or seeks medical advice. The target audience of this guideline is clinicians who evaluate and treat patients with nosebleed. This includes primary care providers such as family medicine physicians, internists, pediatricians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. It also includes specialists such as emergency medicine providers, otolaryngologists, interventional radiologists/neuroradiologists and neurointerventionalists, hematologists, and cardiologists. The setting for this guideline includes any site of evaluation and treatment for a patient with nosebleed, including ambulatory medical sites, the emergency department, the inpatient hospital, and even remote outpatient encounters with phone calls and telemedicine. Outcomes to be considered for patients with nosebleed include control of acute bleeding, prevention of recurrent episodes of nasal bleeding, complications of treatment modalities, and accuracy of diagnostic measures. This guideline addresses the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of nosebleed. It will focus on nosebleeds that commonly present to clinicians with phone calls, office visits, and emergency room encounters. This guideline discusses first-line treatments such as nasal compression, application of vasoconstrictors, nasal packing, and nasal cautery. It also addresses more complex epistaxis management, which includes the use of endoscopic arterial ligation and interventional radiology procedures. Management options for 2 special groups of patients, patients with hemorrhagic telangiectasia syndrome (HHT) and patients taking medications that inhibit coagulation and/or platelet function, are included in this guideline. This guideline is intended to focus on evidence-based quality improvement opportunities judged most important by the working group. It is not intended to be a comprehensive, general guide for managing patients with nosebleed. In this context, the purpose is to define useful actions for clinicians, generalists, and specialists from a variety of disciplines to improve quality of care. Conversely, the statements in this guideline are not intended to limit or restrict care provided by clinicians based upon their experience and assessment of individual patients.
Action statements: The guideline development group made recommendations for the following key action statements: (1) At the time of initial contact, the clinician should distinguish the nosebleed patient who requires prompt management from the patient who does not. (2) The clinician should treat active bleeding for patients in need of prompt management with firm sustained compression to the lower third of the nose, with or without the assistance of the patient or caregiver, for 5 minutes or longer. (3a) For patients in whom bleeding precludes identification of a bleeding site despite nasal compression, the clinician should treat ongoing active bleeding with nasal packing. (3b) The clinician should use resorbable packing for patients with a suspected bleeding disorder or for patients who are using anticoagulation or antiplatelet medications. (4) The clinician should educate the patient who undergoes nasal packing about the type of packing placed, timing of and plan for removal of packing (if not resorbable), postprocedure care, and any signs or symptoms that would warrant prompt reassessment. (5) The clinician should document factors that increase the frequency or severity of bleeding for any patient with a nosebleed, including personal or family history of bleeding disorders, use of anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, or intranasal drug use. (6) The clinician should perform anterior rhinoscopy to identify a source of bleeding after removal of any blood clot (if present) for patients with nosebleeds. (7a) The clinician should perform, or should refer to a clinician who can perform, nasal endoscopy to identify the site of bleeding and guide further management in patients with recurrent nasal bleeding, despite prior treatment with packing or cautery, or with recurrent unilateral nasal bleeding. (8) The clinician should treat patients with an identified site of bleeding with an appropriate intervention, which may include 1 or more of the following: topical vasoconstrictors, nasal cautery, and moisturizing or lubricating agents. (9) When nasal cautery is chosen for treatment, the clinician should anesthetize the bleeding site and restrict application of cautery only to the active or suspected site(s) of bleeding. (10) The clinician should evaluate, or refer to a clinician who can evaluate, candidacy for surgical arterial ligation or endovascular embolization for patients with persistent or recurrent bleeding not controlled by packing or nasal cauterization. (11) In the absence of life-threatening bleeding, the clinician should initiate first-line treatments prior to transfusion, reversal of anticoagulation, or withdrawal of anticoagulation/antiplatelet medications for patients using these medications. (12) The clinician should assess, or refer to a specialist who can assess, the presence of nasal telangiectasias and/or oral mucosal telangiectasias in patients who have a history of recurrent bilateral nosebleeds or a family history of recurrent nosebleeds to diagnose hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia syndrome (HHT). (13) The clinician should educate patients with nosebleeds and their caregivers about preventive measures for nosebleeds, home treatment for nosebleeds, and indications to seek additional medical care. (14) The clinician or designee should document the outcome of intervention within 30 days or document transition of care in patients who had a nosebleed treated with nonresorbable packing, surgery, or arterial ligation/embolization. The policy level for the following recommendation about examination of the nasal cavity and nasopharynx using nasal endoscopy was an option: (7b) The clinician may perform, or may refer to a clinician who can perform, nasal endoscopy to examine the nasal cavity and nasopharynx in patients with epistaxis that is difficult to control or when there is concern for unrecognized pathology contributing to epistaxis.
Keywords: epistaxis; hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT); nasal cautery; nasal packing; nosebleed.