[The physiological significance of paranasal sinuses in man: speculations for 1800 years]

Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1991 Jun 22;121(25):925-31.
[Article in German]


The function of the paranasal sinuses has been a controversial subject since the time of Galen (130-201 AD). A review of the literature reveals quite different beliefs about their biological purpose, and eight hypotheses have received particular attention: 1) They lighten the bones of the skull; 2) improve the resonance of the voice; 3) humidify and warm inspired air; 4) increase the area of the olfactory membrane; 5) serve as shock absorbers in mechanical impacts; 6) act as thermal insulators of the brain; 7) promote facial growth and architecture; and 8) persist as evolutionary relics or faults. Scrutiny of these hypotheses shows that none has a scientific basis.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Paranasal Sinuses / anatomy & histology
  • Paranasal Sinuses / physiology*
  • Respiration / physiology
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Smell / physiology
  • Voice Quality