Pros and Cons of Nose Cauterization

Nose cautery is a small operation that your GP, ENT Surgeon, or Emergency Department physician may conduct during your appointment. It involves the use of enough light, either with or without magnification, and some type of cautery instrument, most commonly a silver nitrate stick.

When the silver nitrate on the end of the stick is applied to moist nasal cavity linings, it releases nitric acid, causing a minor, controlled chemical burn at the application site.

It is normally done one nostril at a time under local anesthesia, but it is occasionally done cautiously in both nostrils at the same time. A thin electric cautery device is occasionally utilized, however, this is more frequent in the operating room during general anesthesia. Typically, the treatment takes no more than five minutes.

Nasal cautery is used to control bleeding or seal leaking blood vessels in the nose. In most cases, it is reserved for bleeding spots or vessels that are located near the front of the nasal cavity and can be accessed easily through the nostrils.

In most cases, you will be seated erect in a chair, although you may also be reclined or lying down. Your ENT surgeon will first numb the nostrils with a numbing medication, either as a spray or on a little packing or cotton wool ball. This helps alleviate any discomfort associated with the treatment and can also assist decrease any active bleeding.

Pros and Cons of Nose Cauterization

After removing any packs, the nasal cavity is meticulously examined for conspicuous blood vessels or leaking spots. The silver nitrate stick is then gently placed to these spots for a few seconds at a time, resulting in a mild, precise burn that seals the blood vessels.

When both sides of the nose are being treated, your surgeon will take care to limit the amount of burning done and will try to avoid scorching directly opposing regions of each nostril to reduce abnormalities.

Pros of Nose Cauterization

In most cases, the process is quick and efficient at stopping small nosebleeds and preventing them from recurring. Because it is done under local anesthesia, recovery is swift. It can be performed as many times as necessary as long as the wound has healed properly. 

Nose Cauterization is a relatively low-cost procedure because it involves minor surgery under local anesthesia so, it is considered a daycare procedure and the patient can go home on the same day without having any side effects associated with the procedure or due to anesthesia.

Cons of Nose Cauterization

Each medical procedure has some level of danger and consequence. However, if conducted accurately, the hazards associated with nasal cautery are minimal.

The most common risk is that the silver in the cauterized area falls into the top lip and face skin, discoloring it non-permanently, usually to a dark brown. If this occurs, it will go away within a few days to weeks.

Minor discomfort may lead some people to feel light-headed or, in rare cases, faint — though this is extremely unusual.

A septal perforation is a rare but serious consequence. There is a slight possibility that an area of cautery will get infected and/or will fail to heal, resulting in a tiny hole in the septum. If this does occur, it is frequently without symptoms, but may result in more nose bleeds, a sense of nasal obstruction and crusting, and occasionally a whistling sound when breathing through the nose.

It can be fixed surgically if required. Finally, once the initial region of treatment has healed, nasal cautery may need to be repeated, either on the same side or on the opposite side.

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