What is the pathophysiology of acute sinusitis?

Updated: Apr 22, 2020
  • Author: Ted L Tewfik, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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The sinuses are normally sterile under physiologic conditions. Purulent sinusitis can occur when ciliary clearance of sinus secretions decreases or when the sinus ostium becomes obstructed, which leads to retention of secretions, negative sinus pressure, and reduction of oxygen partial pressure. This environment is then suitable for growth of pathogenic organisms. Factors that predispose the sinuses to obstruction and decreased ciliary function are allergic, nonallergic, or viral insults, which produce inflammation of the nasal and sinus mucosa and result in ciliary dysmotility and sinus obstruction. Approximately 90% of patients who have viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) have sinus involvement, but only 5-10% of these patients have bacterial superinfection requiring antimicrobial treatment.

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