Validity of ultrasonography in diagnosis of acute maxillary sinusitis

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Dec;126(12):1482-6. doi: 10.1001/archotol.126.12.1482.


Background: Accurate diagnosis of maxillary sinusitis is difficult on the basis of clinical examination only because the signs and symptoms of sinusitis are nonspecific. A simple, rapid, and readily available method for diagnosing maxillary sinusitis in primary care would increase the accuracy of the diagnoses and thus reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatment.

Objective: To investigate the validity of ultrasonography compared with radiography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in detection of maxillary sinusitis.

Design: Ultrasonography and plain-film radiography of the paranasal sinuses were performed on all patients and MRI was performed on 40 randomly selected patients on day 7 of the study.

Setting: Study office at the Department of Pediatrics of Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.

Patients: One hundred ninety-seven young adults who contacted the study office within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms of the common cold.

Main outcome measures: Detection rates of maxillary sinusitis by ultrasonography, radiography, and MRI.

Results: Acute maxillary sinusitis was diagnosed in 24% of the sinuses by radiography and in 28% by MRI. Compared with MRI findings, the sensitivity of ultrasonography for detection of maxillary sinusitis was 64% (specificity, 95%). Using a 2-step diagnostic approach in which radiological findings were additionally considered in cases of negative ultrasound findings, a sensitivity of 86% (specificity, 95%) was observed.

Conclusions: The high specificity of ultrasonography indicates that a positive ultrasound finding can be regarded as evidence of maxillary sinusitis. The addition of plain-film radiography in cases of negative ultrasound findings increases the diagnostic sensitivity to clinically acceptable levels without loss in specificity. Active use of ultrasonography would substantially decrease the need for radiological imaging of the sinuses and also help reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatment in primary care. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000;126:1482-1486

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Maxillary Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Maxillary Sinusitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography