Principles of appropriate antibiotic use for acute rhinosinusitis in adults: Background

J. M. Hickner, J. G. Bartlett, R. E. Besser, R. Gonzales, J. R. Hoffman, M. A. Sande

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196 Scopus citations


The following principles of appropriate antibiotic use for adults with acute rhinosinusitis apply to the diagnosis and treatment of acute maxillary and ethmoid rhinosinusitis in adults who are not immunocompromised. 1. Most cases of acute rhinosinusitis diagnosed in ambulatory care are caused by uncomplicated viral upper respiratory tract infections. 2. Bacterial and viral rhinosinusitis are difficult to differentiate on clinical grounds. The clinical diagnosis of acute bacterial rhinosinusitis should be reserved for patients with rhinosinusitis symptoms lasting 7 days or more who have maxillary pain or tenderness in the face or teeth (especially when unilateral) and purulent nasal secretions. Patients with rhinosinusitis symptoms that last less than 7 days are unlikely to have bacterial infection, although rarely some patients with acute bacterial rhinosinusitis present with dramatic symptoms of severe unilateral maxillary pain, swelling, and fever. 3. Sinus radiography is not recommended for diagnosis in routine cases. 4. Acute rhinosinusitis resolves without antibiotic treatment in most cases. Symptomatic treatment and reassurance is the preferred initial management strategy for patients with mild symptoms. Antibiotic therapy should be reserved for patients with moderately severe symptoms who meet the criteria for the clinical diagnosis of acute bacterial rhinosinusitis and for those with severe rhinosinusitis symptoms - especially those with unilateral facial pain - regardless of duration of illness. For initial treatment, the most narrow-spectrum agent active against the likely pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, should be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-505
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 20 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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