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Antibiotics appear to be overprescribed for sinus infections

Armen Hareyan's picture

Antibiotics are prescribed for approximately 82 percent of acute sinus infections and nearly 70 percent of chronic sinus infections, despite the fact that viruses are by far the most frequent cause of this condition, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Rhinosinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus cavities (adjacent to the nasal passages) and commonly referred to as a sinus infection, is a common and expensive medical condition in the United States, according to background information in the article. In 2002, rhinosinusitis accounted for 21 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions for adults and 9 percent of those for children. The infection is considered acute when symptoms last up to four weeks, and chronic when symptoms persist for 12 weeks or longer. Acute rhinosinusitis is usually thought to be caused by infectious agents, while allergies, facial anatomy and hormonal changes may contribute to chronic cases.

Hadley J. Sharp, B.S., and colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, used data from two national surveys to assess the medications prescribed for sinus infections at physicians