What is the role of imaging studies in the diagnosis of sinusitis (sinus infection)?

Updated: Mar 01, 2018
  • Author: Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Imaging studies are not necessary when the probability of sinusitis is either high or low but may be useful when the diagnosis is in doubt, based upon a thorough history and physical examination. Plain sinus radiographs may demonstrate mucosal thickening, air-fluid levels (see the image below), and sinus opacification.

Air-fluid level (arrow) in the maxillary sinus sug Air-fluid level (arrow) in the maxillary sinus suggests sinusitis.

Limitations of plain films include interobserver variability, inability to distinguish infection from a polyp or tumor disease, and poor depiction of the ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses.


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