Endoscopy-negative, computed tomography-negative facial pain in a nasal clinic

Laryngoscope. 2001 Apr;111(4 Pt 1):581-6. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200104000-00006.


Objectives: To establish the etiology of facial pain in individuals attending the nasal clinic of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University Hospital, Nottingham, U.K., with normal nasal endoscopy and computed tomography of the paranasal sinuses.

Study design: A retrospective analysis of a cohort of 973 patients consecutively presenting to the nasal clinic with symptoms of rhinosinusitis and/or facial pain.

Methods: We reviewed the case notes of 973 consecutive patients who presented to the nasal clinic with either symptoms of rhinosinusitis or facial pain, and in particular 101 who had facial pain without any objective evidence of nasal disease as detected by nasal endoscopy or computed tomography. The diagnosis was based on the outcome and response to treatment after a mean of 2 years 2 months.

Results: One hundred one patients had pain as a predominant symptom with normal nasal endoscopy and computed tomography of the paranasal sinuses. None of these patients responded to either medical or surgical treatment for what some workers have hypothesized could be "occult" sinonasal disease. A neurological diagnosis was made in 99 patients. Eighty patients received successful medical treatment for "neurological" diagnoses, 8 patients experienced spontaneous resolution of their symptoms, 7 failed to respond to any treatment modality, 2 were lost to follow-up, and 2 refused any treatment.

Conclusion: The majority of patients presenting to a rhinologic clinic with facial pain and no objective evidence of sinus disease, as detected by endoscopy and computed tomography, responded well to neurological treatment and surgical intervention was unnecessary. These patients should receive a trial of medical therapy, such as low-dose amitriptyline for 6 weeks in the first instance, before any surgical intervention is considered.

MeSH terms

  • Endoscopy
  • Facial Pain / epidemiology
  • Facial Pain / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nasal Cavity / diagnostic imaging
  • Nasal Cavity / pathology
  • Nasal Polyps / complications
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital
  • Paranasal Sinuses / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhinitis / complications
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis
  • Sinusitis / complications
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Tension-Type Headache / complications
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed