Choosing Wisely:

Avoid prescribing antibiotics in the emergency department for uncomplicated sinusitis.

Rationale and Comments: Sinusitis is a common reason for patients to visit the emergency department. Most patients with acute sinusitis do not require antibiotic treatment, because approximately 98% of acute sinusitis cases are caused by a viral infection and resolve in 10-14 days without treatment. For some patients with sinusitis, antibiotics might be appropriate, such as those patients taking drugs that reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, those with prolonged, severe symptoms, or those with worsening symptoms. Antibiotics can cause many side effects and have potentially severe complications, and these risks usually outweigh the benefits of their use for sinusitis. In addition, inappropriate antibiotic use for sinusitis can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant infections and contributes to avoidable health care costs.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • Sources:
  • IDSA/AAP guidelines
  • Disciplines:
  • Infectious disease
  • Otolaryngologic
  • References: • Sinusitis and antibiotics. Lancet Infect Dis. 2012 May;12(5):355.
    • Chow AW, Benninger MS, Brook I, Brozek JL, Goldstein EJ, Hicks LA, Pankey GA, Seleznick M, Volturo G, Wald ER, File TM Jr, Infectious Diseases Society of America. IDSA clinical practice guideline for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis in children and adults. Clin Infect Dis. 2012Apr;54(8):e72-e112.
    • Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Rautakorpi UM, Borisenko OV, Liira H, Williams JW Jr, Mäkelä M. Antibiotics for acute maxillary sinusitis in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Feb 11;2:CD000243.
    • Donnelly JP, Baddley JW, Wang HE. Antibiotic utilization for acute respiratory tract infections in U.S. emergency departments. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2014;58(3):1451-7.
    • Tashima L, Piccirillo JF. Are antibiotics indicated for acute sinusitis? Laryngoscope. 2014 Sep;124(9):1979-80.
    • Wald ER, Applegate KE, Bordley C, Darrow DH, Glode MP, Marcy SM, Nelson CE, Rosenfeld RM, Shaikh N, Smith MJ, Williams PV, Weinberg ST; American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis and management of acute bacterial sinusitis in children aged 1 to 18 years. Pediatrics. 2013 Jul;132(1):e262-80.
    • MacKenzie A. Balancing the benefits and risks of empirical antibiotics for sinusitis: A teachable moment. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Aug 1;174(8):1221-2.

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