Background: Ambulatory care visits for chronic sinusitis outnumber visits for acute sinusitis. The majority of these visits are with non-otolaryngologists. In order to better understand patients diagnosed with chronic sinusitis by non-otolaryngologists, we sought to determine if incident cases of chronic sinusitis diagnosed by primary care (PC) or emergency medicine (EM) providers meet diagnostic criteria.
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study. Patients were identified using administrative data from 2005 to 2006. The dataset was then clinically annotated based on chart review. We excluded prevalent cases.
Results: We identified 114 patients with newly diagnosed chronic sinusitis in EM (75) or PC settings (39). Rhinorrhea (EM 61%, PC 59%) and nasal obstruction (EM 67%, PC 64%) were common in both settings but facial fullness (EM 80%, PC 39%) and pain (EM 40%, PC 18%) were more common in the EM setting. Few patients reported symptoms of 90 days or longer (EM 6.0%, PC 24%) and no patient had evidence of inflammation on physical examination. A minority of patients received a sinus computed tomography (CT) scan (22.8%) or nasal endoscopy (1.8%). In total, only 1 patient diagnosed with chronic sinusitis met the diagnostic criteria.
Conclusion: Most patients diagnosed with chronic sinusitis by non-otolaryngologists do not have the condition. Caution should be used in studying chronic sinusitis using administrative data from non-otolaryngology providers because a large proportion of the patients may not actually have the disease.
Keywords: chronic disease; chronic rhinosinusitis; computed tomography; endoscopy; evidence-based medicine; rhinosinusitis; sinusitis.
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