Trick of the Trade: Managing Epistaxis with Merocel Nasal Packing and an Angiocatheter


There are many ways to manage epistaxis. Once nasal clamping and cauterization fail, the next step is to consider using tranexamic acid (TXA) and performing nasal packing. Inflatable packing devices such as a Rhinorocket are painful to insert and do not conform well to the shape of the naris. The expandable Merocel nasal packing, a compressed, dehydrated sponge, provides a softer, alternative option, although the insertion process can be painful given its initial rigid, edged structure. We propose 2 strategic tricks to optimize your nasal packing technique using the Merocel sponge.

Trick of the Trade: Strategic expansion of the Merocel sponge

The common approach for Merocel packing involves inserting the unexpanded sponge into the nose, tilting the patient’s head back, and dripping in TXA solution to expand the sponge to tamponade the bleeding.

Trick #1: Wet the tip of the Merocel’s sharp edge to allow for a softer cushion to slide the packing more comfortably and deeper into the naris.

Trick #2: Use an angiocatheter to deliver the TXA solution directly onto the mid-portion of the packing. Commonly, the TXA solution is dripped onto the outer end, which may cause an uneven and inadequate expansion at the site where the bleeding may be occurring. Because blood also can react with the packing, it is likely the blood will expand the packing before TXA reaches the center by osmosis. Another benefit of Merocel expansion starting at the center is that it will help anchor the sponge in place. In contrast, TXA administration at the outer tip first may pull the sponge out of the naris a few millimeters.

Equipment

  • 20g or 22g angiocatheter (closed IV catheter system)
  • Tranexamic acid solution
  • A syringe
  • Merocel nasal dressing

Technique

merocel sponge nasal packing trick setup

1. Insert the angiocatheter needle into the Merocel packing about ⅓ the distance from the external end of the packing. Remove the needle, leaving the plastic angiocatheter in place.

merocel tip moisten txa trick

2. Soak the insertion tip of the nasal packing with a drop of TXA to soften it. Or apply a light coat of an antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly to the insertion tip for lubrication. This will make it easier to advance the packing and also less painful for patients. Advance the Merocel into the affected naris just as you would a nasogastric tube. Some additional tips are in the ALiEM article about nasogastric and nasopharyngeal tube insertion.

3. Once the nasal packing is fully inserted, expand the sponge by administering TXA via the attached angiocatheter. The mid-portion of the sponge should expand first, thus preventing outward slippage of packing. Also TXA more quickly reaches the area of bleeding rather than from a more gradual osmotic effect when dripped in from the external tip.

SAEM Clinical Image Series: A Rapidly Spreading Rash

spreading rash

A 40-year-old male with a past medical history of HIV presented for evaluation of a non-pruritic rash. Six days ago, he suddenly felt a stinging sensation at the back of his head and neck similar to a bug bite. He then noticed bumps were starting to form and developed a shock-like pain in the area. Three days ago, the rash spread from the back of his head towards his chest. Yesterday, the rash spread further and now extends medially and upwards covering most of his left neck and ear. The pain continued to worsen, at which point the patient shaved the left side of his head in an attempt to help the rash. Today, the pain became unbearable, which prompted his visit to the emergency department for further evaluation and management.

Head: Normocephalic, atraumatic; left side of patient’s head is shaved.

Eye: Pupils equal, round, reactive to light; extraocular movements intact; no corneal ulcers or dendritic lesions with fluorescein staining.

Visual acuities: Right 20/25, left 20/25, baseline 20/25

Ear, nose, throat: Mucous membranes are dry; oral thrush and tonsillar erythema appreciated; localized erythema, crusting and blistering rash of varying sizes and ages along with the outer ear including the tragus, antihelix, and antitragus; helix mildly swollen. On otoscopy, the tympanic membranes appear pearly grey, shiny, translucent with no bulging, and without cerumen impaction.

Neck: Full range of motion appreciated but both horizontal and vertical movement is slow secondary to pain; no lymphadenopathy.

Neurological: Awake, alert, and oriented to date, place, and person; moves all extremities; cranial nerves II through XII grossly intact; strength 5/5 in all extremities; gait steady; no ataxia, dysmetria, or dysarthria.

Skin: Erythematous, localized, crusted, blistering vesicular rash of various sizes and ages appreciated along the left V3 distribution, C3 to T3 dermatomes anteriorly, and C2 to C6 dermatomes posteriorly.

HIV-1 antibody: positive

CD4 helper t-cells: 48 (L)

HIV-1 RNA PCR: 36,490

The lesions can be characterized as vesicles in various stages of healing. Some lesions are crusted, others are bullous, and a few are pustular. The C2-C6 dermatomes are affected posteriorly, and the C2-T3 dermatomes are involved anteriorly.

The diagnosis is Disseminated Herpes Zoster. The rash in reactivation varicella zoster virus (VZV) is preceded by tingling, itching, or pain, and begins as maculopapular then progresses to vesicles, pustules, and bullae. The rash typically involves a single dermatome and does not cross the midline. Rash present in multiple dermatomes (>3) or a rash that crosses the midline signifies disseminated disease. Hutchinson’s sign is a lesion on the lateral dorsum and tip of the nose indicating the involvement of the nasociliary branch of the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve. The nasociliary branch innervates the eye, thus these lesions are highly suspicious for herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Herpes zoster ophthalmicus on fluorescein examination appears as pseuododendritic lesions with no terminal bulbs (not to be confused with herpes simplex virus (HSV) keratitis, which has dendritic lesions with terminal bulbs). Vesicles in the auditory canal (herpes zoster oticus) may be a part of Ramsay Hunt syndrome with ear pain and paralysis of the facial nerve.

The patient is immunocompromised and requires hospitalization for intravenous (IV) antiviral therapy and pain management. VZV primary infection results in viremia, diffuse rash, and seeding of sensory ganglia where the virus establishes latency. Herpes zoster is the result of viral reactivation with spread along the sensory nerve in that dermatome. Antiviral therapy aids in the resolution of lesions, reduces the formation of new lesions, reduces viral shedding, and decreases the severity of acute pain, but does not affect the development of post-herpetic neuralgia.

Immunocompetent patients may receive Valacyclovir 1 g PO q8hrs (preferred) or Acyclovir 800 mg PO 5x/day x 7d if the onset of rash is <3 days or >3 days with the appearance of new lesions.

Immunocompromised, transplant, and cancer patients are all at high risk for dissemination, chronic skin lesions, acyclovir-resistant VZV, and multi-organ involvement. Immunocompromised patients and patients with disseminated zoster require aggressive multimodal treatment, admission to the hospital, and IV antiviral therapy regardless of the time of onset of rash. Recommended therapy is Acyclovir 10 mg/kg IV q8h or Foscarnet 40 mg/kg IV q8h for acyclovir-resistant VZV. All patients require adequate analgesia, typically with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, Gabapentin, Nortriptyline, and Lidocaine patches on intact skin.

Take-Home Points

  • Disseminated herpes zoster is defined as reactivation of VZV in three or more dermatomes. It requires admission, IV antiviral therapy, and pain control.
  • If VZV reactivation involves the face, one must evaluate for herpes zoster ophthalmicus and oticus.
  • Perform a thorough neuro exam including evaluation of cranial nerves V, VII, and VIII.
  • VZV requires airborne precautions.
  1. Cohen JI. Clinical practice: Herpes zoster. N Engl J Med. 2013 Jul 18;369(3):255-63. doi: 10.1056/NEJMcp1302674. PMID: 23863052; PMCID: PMC4789101.

 

 

 

SAEM Clinical Image Series: Edema Got Your Tongue?

angioedema

A 57-year-old male presented to the emergency department with a swollen mouth for three hours. He reported never having experienced this before and denied starting any new medications. The patient endorsed a feeling that his mouth was swollen and had difficulty swallowing. The edema had been increasing in size since its onset. He had been drooling for the past hour and endorsed mild pain around the area. He denied any shortness of breath, rash, nausea, vomiting, or other areas of edema. His past medical history included hypertension, diabetes, and allergies, with no known drug allergies. His family history was unknown. His medications included Metformin and Lisinopril.

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SAEM Clinical Image Series: Left Ear Mass

ear mass

A 25-year-old male who was previously healthy presents to the emergency department with a painful left posterior ear mass. The mass began as a “pimple” and has been increasing in size for the last 6 months. He has an associated headache, dizziness, and malaise. He denies fever, trauma, drainage, known insect bite, dysphagia, dyspnea, trismus, and hearing loss. He emigrated to the United States from Honduras 8 months ago. He was seen in the emergency department 4 months prior for a similar complaint, which was diagnosed as lymphadenopathy by point-of-care ultrasound.

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SAEM Clinical Image Series: The Hemorrhaging Bifurcated Tongue

bifurcated tongue

A 26-year-old male with no past medical history presented to the emergency department for tongue bleeding for one day. Five days prior he had an elective cosmetic tongue bifurcation completed out-of-state. About two hours prior to arrival, he had been using a swish-and-spit saltwater rinse when he felt a suture break. Ever since he has had copious bleeding, reportedly filling his sink at home with blood. Additionally, he had about 250 milliliters of blood, including large clots, in a container in the emergency department. He denied using any blood thinners. There was no syncope, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, pain of the tongue, or numbness of the tongue. He had some difficulty speaking but said it was due to needing to retrain his bifurcated tongue.

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SAEM Clinical Image Series: Oral Trauma and Mass

oral mass

A 38-year-old African American male without a significant past medical history presented with an oral mass. He was struck on the mouth by a wrench handle about two prior. Since then he has had a growing mass originating from the gum of his left front upper teeth. He is no longer able to eat solid foods and has to use a straw for all oral intake. The patient denies fevers, chest pain, shortness of breath, and weight loss.

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By |2020-12-11T15:18:37-08:00Dec 14, 2020|Academic, ENT, SAEM Clinical Images|

SAEM Clinical Image Series: Worsening Sore Throat

Computed tomography neck

A 40-year-old  male presented to the emergency department (ED) complaining of a sore throat for one week. The patient had presented ten days earlier following a stab wound to the anterior neck that violated the platysma. There was no vascular injury noted on the computed tomography angiography (CTA) but there was extensive soft tissue damage with emphysema extending into the retropharyngeal space. The patient underwent a flexible laryngoscopy by ENT, which showed no airway injury. He was observed in the intensive care unit for two days, then discharged. Following discharge, the patient had progressive sore throat and odynophagia, so he re-presented to the ED.

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