Immune dysfunction in refractory sinusitis in a tertiary care setting

Laryngoscope. 2001 Feb;111(2):233-5. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200102000-00008.


Objective: To examine the contribution of the primary immunodeficiency states, which are uncommon in the general population, to refractory sinusitis.

Study design: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 316 patients with sinusitis who were referred to the Allergy and Immunology Clinic for immunological evaluation from 1991 to 1997.

Methods: Of the 316 patients, 79 were selected for further study. Inclusion criteria included at least one sinus surgery and/or sinusitis diagnosed by endoscopy and/or computed tomography (CT) scan at least three times in the previous year. Patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), allergic fungal sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, and primary ciliary dyskinesia were excluded. The results of their immunological evaluation for atopy, T-lymphocyte function, and immunoglobulin levels were examined.

Results: The average age of these 79 patients was 44 years (+/- 14.5 standard deviation [SD]). They had, on average, 2.94 (+/- 2.19 SD) previous operations and had mean sinus CT scores (Lund-McKay) of 11.2 (+/- 5.0 SD). Forty of 79 (50.6%) patients had at least one positive result on skin test to an aeroallergen. Delayed hypersensitivity skin testing revealed that 22 of 55 patients (40%) were anergic. Of the 60 patients with in vitro T-lymphocyte function testing, 54.8% showed abnormal proliferation in response to recall antigens, 11.3% had decreased response to alloantigen, and 26.3% demonstrated decreased response to T-cell mitogens. Determination of quantitative immunoglobulins showed low immunoglobulin G in 14 of 78 patients (17.9%), low immunoglobulin A in 13 of 78 (16.7%), and low immunoglobulin M in 4 of 78 (5.1%). Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) was diagnosed in 9.9% of patients, and selective IgA deficiency was found in 6.2%.

Conclusions: This retrospective review reveals an unexpectedly high incidence of immune dysfunction. These results suggest that immunological testing should be an integral part of the evaluation of patients with refractory sinusitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Common Variable Immunodeficiency / diagnosis
  • Common Variable Immunodeficiency / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / deficiency
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / immunology*
  • Intradermal Tests
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Sinusitis / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulins