Patterns of sinonasal obstruction

Last revised by Henry Knipe on 20 May 2020

Recognizing patterns of sinonasal obstruction is useful to help localize the area of pathology and narrow the differential diagnosis. 

Radiographic features

Babbel et al described five pattern of sinonasal obstruction 1, which are readily apparent on CT:

Infundibular pattern
Ostiomeatal unit pattern
  • opacification of the ipsilateral maxillary sinus, frontal sinus, and anterior and middle ethmoid air cells
  • obstruction of the middle meatus
  • may be an incomplete pattern due to variable drainage pattern
  • causes: mucosal swelling, turbinate hypertrophy, polyps, tumors/masses, concha bullosa, paradoxical middle turbinate, nasal septal deviation
Sphenoethmoidal recess pattern
  • opacification of the ipsilateral sphenoid sinus +/- posterior ethmoid air cells
  • obstruction of the sphenoethmoidal recess
Sinonasal polyposis pattern
  • polypoid masses in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses
  • bilateral maxillary infundibulum widening
  • convex ethmoid air cell walls
  • attenuation (change) the nasal septum and ethmoid air cell walls
  • +/- infundibular, ostiomeatal, sphenoethmoidal recess patterns depending on secondary obstruction
Sporadic (unclassifiable) pattern
  • all other patterns not attributable to obstruction or sinonasal polyposis
  • post-surgical change is also included in this group
  • causes: mucous retention cyst, mucocele

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.