Variability of Paranasal Sinus Pneumatization in the Absence of Sinus Disease

Ochsner J. 2020 Summer;20(2):170-175. doi: 10.31486/toj.19.0053.


Background: Paranasal sinus pneumatization is a complex process, and numerous computed tomography (CT) studies document developmental variations in the setting of underlying sinus disease. The purpose of this study was to investigate variation in paranasal sinus pneumatization in a population of nondiseased subjects using a metric validated for tracking individual anatomic variants as well as total sinus volume. Methods: A total of 591 consecutive sinus and maxillofacial CT scans were considered for study inclusion. After patients with inflammatory sinus or respiratory disease were excluded, 323 CT scans were scored using the Assessment of Pneumatization of the Paranasal Sinuses (APPS) instrument, and relevant demographic data were recorded for each scan. APPS findings were compared according to demographic characteristics and laterality. Results: Laterality and sex were associated with differences in paranasal sinus pneumatization in a nondiseased population. Based on APPS score, the left side (4.95) was more pneumatized than the right (4.74, P=0.006), and males (10.16) were more extensively pneumatized than females (9.18, P=0.005). We found no correlation of age with sinus pneumatization (ρ=0.025). The probability of perceptible asymmetry in any given individual's paranasal sinus pneumatization was 69%, and the probability of left-sided dominance was 53%. Conclusion: Substantial anatomic variation exists in paranasal sinus anatomy, even among patients without sinus disease. Significant differences are found between males and females and between the left and right sides. Continued systematic research of paranasal sinus anatomy may facilitate a standard for CT sinus assessment that will aid clinician evaluation of anatomic variation and surgical decision making.

Keywords: Anatomic variation; paranasal sinuses; tomography–x-ray computed.