Whilst it is generally accepted that the standard management for anterior or benign epistaxis is either cautery or anterior nasal packing, that of posterior or intractable epistaxis remains controversial. Various modalities of treatment, ranging from posterior nasal packing to arterial ligation and embolization, have been advocated but none have been unanimously accepted as the treatment of choice.
The purpose of this paper was to determine the efficacy of internal maxillary arterial ligation versus combined internal maxillary arterial ligation and anterior ethmoid arterial coagulation in intractable epistaxis.
Over a six year period, from 1985 to 1990,454 patients were admitted and treated for epistaxis. Forty-seven patients were diagnosed as having intractable epistaxis on the basis that the epistaxis failed to settle on anterior nasal packing. They were moved to the next step in management, which was combined anterior and posterior nasal packing. There were 30 failures, one was found to have choriocarcinoma of the maxilla, and was treated wtih cytotoxics, and the other 29 were moved to the next step, which was arterial ligation. Fifteen patients had internal maxillary arterial ligation, and 14 combined internal maxillary arterial ligation and anterior ethmoidal arterial coagulation.
Large windows were created in both the anterior and posterior walls of the maxillary sinuses and all identifiable branches of the internal maxillary artery were dissected out carefully and two medium size ligating clips were placed over the main trunk, the sphenopalatine and the descending palatine branches. Single clips were placed on all other identifiable branches. Coagulation of the anterior ethmoidal artery was performed with a bipolar cautery. There were three (20 per cent) failures in the internal maxillary arterial ligation group and none in the combined internal maxillary arterial ligation and anterior ethmoidal arterial coagulation group. Furthermore, the three failures were successfully treated with anterior ethmoidal arterial coagulation. The conclusion is that combined internal maxillary and anterior ethmoidal arterial occlusion is the treatment of choice in intractable epistaxis.