Conditions that masquerade as chronic rhinosinusitis: a medical record review

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Jul;132(7):748-51. doi: 10.1001/archotol.132.7.748.


Objective: To identify conditions that are commonly mistaken for chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). The hypothesis was that many patients referred to a rhinology clinic with a presumptive diagnosis of CRS do not have CRS.

Design: Retrospective, observational design study of adult patients referred for evaluation of CRS-like symptoms. The expert opinion of the rhinologist was the diagnostic standard.

Setting: Tertiary care rhinology clinic.

Patients: A consecutive sample of 186 patients referred to the University of Michigan Health Systems' Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery between April 1998 and June 2000 for evaluation of CRS-like symptoms.

Main outcome measures: For each patient, a history was obtained and a physical examination was performed, including nasal endoscopy and, when indicated, computed tomographic evaluation of the sinuses. Each patient's diagnosis at referral, CRS, was compared with the final diagnosis made by the rhinologist. The final diagnoses were collected and analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results: Of 186 patients, 112 (60%) had CRS and 74 (40%) did not. The most common diagnoses among the patients who did not have CRS were allergic rhinitis (n = 37), laryngitis associated with reflux (n = 21), head or facial pain (n = 18), and nonallergic rhinitis (n = 23). Many patients had more than 1 diagnosis.

Conclusions: Among a tertiary care population, common medical disorders, including rhinitis, laryngitis associated with reflux, and headache disorders, may simulate CRS. Heightened awareness of these conditions may improve diagnostic accuracy in patients with CRS-like symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis*
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis*