How cocaine can be used in sinus surgery

Many people are already aware that marijuana is now legal in some states in the US with a medical prescription.

What many people may not realize is that cocaine is also used in medical care, especially in the ENT world.

Cocaine is one of the most potent anesthetic and vasoconstrictor. These two characteristics make it an ideal medication for use during sinus surgery as well as any nasal procedure where bleeding and pain may be an issue.

Many physicians will use cocaine to help stop nosebleeds (I do not).

Many surgeons use cocaine during sinus surgery to minimize post-operative pain as well as minimize intra-operative bleeding. Use of cocaine also significantly decreases risk of nosebleeds after sinus surgery as well as minimize need for nasal packing.

Cocaine when used for illegal recreational purposes by snorting puts a person at risk for septal perforation due to its vasoconstrictor properties. In essence, the cocaine puts a chemical tourniquet on the blood supply to the septum leading to mucosal necrosis and eventual perforation. Afrin does the same thing, but on a much smaller scale.

Before anybody asks … cocaine is never prescribed to a patient. It is only used in a hospital/office setting and heavily controlled under lock and key.

Christopher Chang is an otolaryngologist who blogs at Fauquier ENT Consultants blog.

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