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.
20g or 22g angiocatheter (closed IV catheter system)
Tranexamic acid solution
Merocel nasal dressing
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.
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.
Medical Advisor Palo Alto Fire Department, Mountain View Fire Department, and Santa Clara Fire Department; Clinical Associate Professor Department of Emergency Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine