Effect of Intranasal Vasoconstrictors on Blood Pressure: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Shawna D Bellew, Katie L Johnson, Micah D Nichols, Tobias Kummer
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2018, 55 (4): 455-464

BACKGROUND: Treatment for epistaxis includes application of intranasal vasoconstrictors. These medications have a precaution against use in patients with hypertension. Given that many patients who present with epistaxis are hypertensive, these warnings are commonly overridden by clinical necessity.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to determine the effects of intranasal vasoconstrictors on blood pressure.

METHODS: We conducted a single-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from November 2014 through July 2016. Adult patients being discharged from the emergency department (ED) at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) were recruited. Patients were ineligible if they had a contraindication to study medications, had a history of hypertension, were currently taking antihypertensive or antidysrhythmic medications, or had nasal abnormalities, such as epistaxis. Subjects were randomized to one of four study arms (phenylephrine 0.25%; oxymetazoline 0.05%; lidocaine 1% with epinephrine 1:100,000; or bacteriostatic 0.9% sodium chloride [saline]). Blood pressure and heart rate were measured every 5 min for 30 min.

RESULTS: Sixty-eight patients were enrolled in the study; of these, 63 patients completed the study (oxymetazoline, n = 15; phenylephrine, n = 20; lidocaine with epinephrine, n = 11; saline, n = 17). We did not observe any significant differences in mean arterial pressure over time between phenylephrine and saline, oxymetazoline and saline, or lidocaine with epinephrine and saline. The mean greatest increases from baseline in mean arterial pressure, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate for each treatment group were also not significantly different from the saline group.

CONCLUSIONS: Intranasal vasoconstrictors did not significantly increase blood pressure in patients without a history of hypertension. Our findings reinforce the practice of administering these medications to patients who present to the ED with epistaxis, regardless of high blood pressure.

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