Local application of fluorouracil (Efudix, 5-FU) induces sclerosis in patients with sinonasal tumors and superficial basocellular skin carcinoma. As a ‘back against the wall’ treatment, we investigated the local effect of nasally applied 5-FU and whether this could decrease the burden of severe epistaxis in patients with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT).
HHT patients with severe and frequent epistaxis, subsequent anemia and a necessity for blood and/or iron infusions were treated with a nasal tampon with 5-FU. This tampon was placed unilaterally in the nasal cavity on the side of the most severe epistaxis and replaced once weekly during 4 weeks. Outcome measures were safety and side effects, the aspect of the nasal mucosa measured with the mucosal HHT score, the epistaxis severity score (ESS), hemoglobin and ferritin plasma levels, and quality of life assessment pre-treatment, one and three months post-treatment.
Six HHT patients participated. During treatment and follow-up, the nasal mucosa turned more pale and sclerotic and the number of telangiectases diminished. The mucosal HHT score improved and the ESS declined (p = 0.01). The decline of ESS persisted up to 3 months post-5-FU treatment. Moreover, mean hemoglobin levels increased from 6.0 pre-5-FU to 6.8 after one month post-5-FU.
Unilateral application of 5-FU on a nasal tampon diminished the severity and frequency of epistaxis in all HHT patients. This effect sustained up to three months post-treatment, despite the fact that the contralateral side remained untreated. Subsequently, hemoglobin levels increased. Intranasal 5-FU is a promising entity for further research on epistaxis treatment in HHT patients.