Positional Installation of Intranasal Corticosteroids in the Treatment of Chronic Rhinosinusitis: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Ear Nose Throat J. 2021 Jun;100(5):302-308. doi: 10.1177/0145561320961004. Epub 2020 Sep 24.


Objectives: First-line treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis includes topical corticosteroids aimed at decreasing inflammation of sinonasal mucosa. No guidelines exist regarding the effect of head position during administration of corticosteroids. We hypothesize certain positions enhance delivery to the paranasal sinuses, with further improvement in delivery after sinus surgery.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted using Medline Ovid, Embase, Scopus, and Cochrane databases. All studies evaluating intranasal medications administered in 2 or more head positions were included. Study population, head position(s), method/volume of delivery, and outcome metrics were recorded.

Results: Twenty-four studies compared head positions and their role in distribution of intranasal medication. Of 12 papers studying surgically naive subjects, 6 found improvement in delivery to specific sinonasal regions (middle meatus; lateral, superior, or posterior nasal cavity) and/or symptomatic improvement, in the lying head back (LHB) or head down and forward (HDF) positions, but only 3 reached statistical significance. Of 12 papers studying surgically altered patients, 10 found delivery improved in the HDF, LHB, and head forward 45° or 90° positions. Of 5 studies of extended frontal sinus procedures (Draf IIb/III), a majority found distribution to the frontal sinus improved with the head forward 90° position. Patients found the HDF position most uncomfortable.

Conclusions: Studies found no statistically significant difference in distribution to unoperated sinuses among different head positions. A minority of studies supported the use of the LHB and HDF positions. This suggests that in surgically naive patients, intranasal corticosteroid delivery to sinonasal regions and/or symptomatic improvement may be best achieved with the sinuses positioned inferior to the delivery device. Surgery improved distribution to the paranasal sinuses regardless of head position, although tilting the head forward 90° was particularly effective in delivery to the frontal sinus after extended frontal sinus procedures.

Keywords: head position; intranasal corticosteroid; irrigation; nasal drops; nasal spray; rhinosinusitis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal / methods*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Nasal Sprays
  • Patient Positioning / methods*
  • Rhinitis / drug therapy*
  • Sinusitis / drug therapy*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Nasal Sprays