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Sinusitis - Introduction

Description

An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sinusitis.

Alternative Names

Nasal congestion; Rhinosinusitis

Introduction:

The skull contains a number of air-filled spaces called sinuses. They perform the following functions:

  • Reduce the weight of the skull
  • Provide insulation for the skull
  • Provide resonance for the voice

Four pairs of sinuses, known as the paranasal air sinuses, connect to the nasal passages (the two airways running through the nose). These sinuses are the following:

  • Frontal sinuses (behind the forehead)
  • Maxillary sinuses (behind the cheekbones)
  • Ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes)
  • Sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes)

Sinusitis occurs in these four areas.

Sinusitis

Healthy sinuses are sterile and contain no bacteria. (The nasal passage, on the other hand, normally contains many bacteria.)

The Disease Process. Sinusitis is an infection that occurs if obstruction or congestion leads to bacterial growth in the paranasal sinuses. Among the many causes of such obstruction or congestion are the common cold, allergies, certain medical conditions, abnormalities in the nasal passage, and change in atmosphere. In any of these cases, sinusitis can develop as follows:

  • Mucus drainage and airflow are blocked.
  • Secretions build up, encouraging the growth of certain bacteria.
  • The resulting infection, swelling, and inflammation create further blockage, which may cause the sinuses to close up completely.

Forms of Sinusitis. Sinusitis is classified as acute, subacute, or chronic, or recurrent. The classification is based on how long symptoms last:

  • Acute: Less than 4 weeks
  • Subacute: 4 - 12 weeks
  • Chronic: 12 weeks or longer
  • Recurrent: 3 or more acute episodes in 1 year

Resources

References

Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Borisenko OV, Kovanen N, Varonen H, Rautakorpi UM, Williams JW Jr, et al. Antibiotics for acute maxillary sinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Apr 16;(2):CD000243.

Brook I. Acute and chronic bacterial sinusitis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2007 Jun;21(2):427-48, vii.

De Sutter A, Lemiengre M, Van Maele G, van Driel M, De Meyere M, Christiaens T, et al. Predicting prognosis and effect of antibiotic treatment in rhinosinusitis. Ann Fam Med. 2006 Nov-Dec;4(6):486-93.

Falagas ME, Giannopoulou KP, Vardakas KZ, Dimopoulos G, Karageorgopoulos DE. Comparison of antibiotics with placebo for treatment of acute sinusitis: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Lancet Infect Dis. 2008 Sep;8(9):543-52.

Harvey R, Hannan SA, Badia L, Scadding G. Nasal saline irrigations for the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD006394.

Ling FT, Kountakis SE. Important clinical symptoms in patients undergoing functional endoscopic sinus surgery for chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope. 2007 Jun;117(6):1090-3.

Pynnonen MA, Mukerji SS, Kim HM, Adams ME, Terrell JE. Nasal saline for chronic sinonasal symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Nov;133(11):1115-20.

Ragab A, Clement P. The role of fungi in the airway of chronic rhinosinusitis patients. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Feb;7(1):17-24.

Rosenfeld RM, Andes D, Bhattacharyya N, Cheung D, Eisenberg S, Ganiats TG, et al. Clinical practice guideline: adult sinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Sep;137(3 Suppl):S1-31.

Rosenfeld RM, Singer M, Jones S. Systematic review of antimicrobial therapy in patients with acute rhinosinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Sep;137(3 Suppl):S32-45.

Ryan MW, Marple BF. Allergic fungal rhinosinusitis: diagnosis and management. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Feb;15(1):18-22.

Vaughan WC. Review of balloon sinuplasty. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008 Feb;16(1):2-9.

Weschta M, Rimek D, Formanek M, Podbielski A, Riechelmann H. Effect of nasal antifungal therapy on nasal cell activation markers in chronic rhinosinusitis. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Jul;132(7):743-7.

Williamson IG, Rumsby K, Benge S, Moore M, Smith PW, Cross M, et al. Antibiotics and topical nasal steroid for treatment of acute maxillary sinusitis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007 Dec 5;298(21):2487-96.

Young J, De Sutter A, Merenstein D, van Essen GA, Kaiser L, Varonen H, et al. Antibiotics for adults with clinically diagnosed acute rhinosinusitis: a meta-analysis of individual patient data. Lancet. 2008 Mar 15;371(9616):908-14.

Zalmanovici A, Yaphe J. Steroids for acute sinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD005149.

  • Reviewed last on: 5/19/2009
  • Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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