Acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in adults: part I. Evaluation

Am Fam Physician. 2004 Nov 1;70(9):1685-92.


Acute rhinosinusitis is one of the most common conditions that physicians treat in ambulatory practice. Although often caused by viruses, it sometimes is caused by bacteria, a condition that is called acute bacterial rhinosinusitis. The signs and symptoms of acute bacterial rhinosinusitis and prolonged viral upper respiratory infection are similar, which makes accurate clinical diagnosis difficult. Because two thirds of patients with acute bacterial rhinosinusitis improve without antibiotic treatment and most patients with viral upper respiratory infection improve within seven d antibiotic therapy should be reserved for use in patients who have had symptoms for more than seven days and meet clinical criteria. Four signs and symptoms are the most helpful in predicting acute bacterial rhinosinusitis: purulent nasal discharge, maxillary tooth or facial pain (especially unilateral), unilateral maxillary sinus tenderness, and worsening symptoms after initial improvement. Sinus radiography and ultrasonography are not recommended in the diagnosis of uncomplicated acute bacterial rhinosinusitis, although computed tomography has a role in the care of patients with recurrent or chronic symptoms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Bacterial Infections / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis*
  • Rhinitis / microbiology
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis*
  • Sinusitis / microbiology