Canadian guidelines for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis: clinical summary

Can Fam Physician. 2014 Mar;60(3):227-34.


Objective: To provide a clinical summary of the Canadian clinical practice guidelines for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (ABRS) that includes relevant considerations for family physicians.

Quality of evidence: Guideline authors performed a systematic literature search and drafted recommendations. Recommendations received both strength of evidence and strength of recommendation ratings. Input from external content experts was sought, as was endorsement from Canadian medical societies (Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, and the Family Physicians Airways Group of Canada).

Main message: Diagnosis of ABRS is based on the presence of specific symptoms and their duration; imaging or culture are not needed in uncomplicated cases. Treatment is dependent on symptom severity, with intranasal corticosteroids (INCSs) recommended as monotherapy for mild and moderate cases, although the benefit might be modest. Use of INCSs plus antibiotics is reserved for patients who fail to respond to INCSs after 72 hours, and for initial treatment of patients with severe symptoms. Antibiotic selection must account for the suspected pathogen, the risk of resistance, comorbid conditions, and local antimicrobial resistance trends. Adjunct therapies such as nasal saline irrigation are recommended. Failure to respond to treatment, recurrent episodes, and signs of complications should prompt referral to an otolaryngologist. The guidelines address situations unique to the Canadian health care environment, including actions to take during prolonged wait periods for specialist referral or imaging.

Conclusion: The Canadian guidelines provide up-to-date recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of ABRS that reflect an evolving understanding of the disease. In addition, the guidelines offer useful tools to help clinicians discern viral from bacterial episodes, as well as optimally manage their patients with ABRS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Haemophilus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Moraxellaceae Infections / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Rhinitis / diagnosis
  • Rhinitis / drug therapy*
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Sinusitis / drug therapy*
  • Streptococcal Infections / drug therapy*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents