Objectives: We evaluated the accuracy of acoustic rhinometry (AR) measurements in healthy humans and assessed the ability of AR in quantifying the dimensions of the paranasal sinuses and certain anatomic structures in the nasal cavity.
Methods: Twenty nasal passages of 10 healthy adults were examined by AR and computed tomography (CT) before and after decongestion. Actual cross-sectional areas of the nasal cavity and actual locations of the nasal valve, the head of the inferior turbinate, the head of the middle turbinate, the ostia of the frontal and maxillary sinuses, and the choana were determined from CT sections perpendicular to the curved acoustic axis of the nasal passage.
Results: The AR-measured cross-sectional areas in the anterior nasal cavity were in reasonable agreement with the corresponding areas determined from CT, whereas AR consistently overestimated the passage areas at locations posterior to the paranasal sinus ostia. The nasal valve was identified as a pronounced minimum on the AR area-distance curve. However, AR did not discretely identify the head of the inferior turbinate, the head of the middle turbinate, or the choana.
Conclusions: The local minima on the AR area-distance curve beyond the nasal valve are caused by acoustic resonances in the nasal cavity, and do not correspond to any anatomic structure. The AR area overestimation beyond the paranasal sinus ostia is due to the interaction between the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses, rather than to sound loss into the sinuses. Acoustic rhinometry provides no quantitative information on ostium size or sinus volume in either non-decongested or decongested nasal cavities.