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Nonsurgical Treatment of Nasal Polyps Treatment & Management

  • Author: Sanford M Archer, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
Updated: Mar 17, 2016

Medical Care

The management of nasal polyps should be based on the causative factors. Unfortunately, most cases of nasal polyps have an unclear etiology. Even if the patient is allergic, no clinical evidence shows that the management of allergies reduces or eliminates polyps. Because the underlying etiology in most cases is inflammatory, medical management is aimed at nonspecific treatment of this inflammatory disorder.

Oral corticosteroids are the most effective medical treatment for nasal polyps.[3, 4, 5] The nonspecific anti-inflammatory agent quickly and substantially reduces the size of inflammatory polyps and improves symptoms. Patients whose polyps respond to oral corticosteroids may be re-treated safely 3-4 times a year, especially if they are not candidates for surgery. The mechanism of action of corticosteroids is unclear. One study showed that corticosteroids induce apoptosis in inflammatory cells in human nasal polyps in vitro.

Intranasal steroid sprays may reduce or retard the growth of small nasal polyps, but they are relatively ineffective in massive nasal polyposis. Intranasal corticosteroid sprays reduce the growth of small intranasal polyps and are most effective in the postoperative period to prevent or retard regrowth of the polyps.

Rudmik et al conducted a meta-analysis that reviewed the effect of topical steroids (low-dose administration methodology) on symptoms in patients with nasal polyps. Results suggest topical nasal steroid therapy improves nasal symptoms in patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and nasal polyposis. The study did not look specifically at the effect on polyp size or regression, but rather only on whether or not the patients' symptoms improved. Readers should be cautioned to recognize that since the studies reviewed did not measure polyp mass, no statement can be made about the mechanisms underlying the observed symptomatic improvements, as they may be due to improvement in associated rhinitis, rather than an effect on the nasal polyps. In addition, most of the studies reviewed were from outside of North America.[6]

Intrapolyp steroid injections have been shown to reduce polyp growth and nasal symptom scores compared with intranasal medical therapy and appear to be a safe alternative to surgery in select patients. More studies are necessary.[7]

A study by Moss et al indicated that although visual complications can occur following steroid injections for nasal polyps, the likelihood is small. The study involved 78 patients with chronic rhinitis or sinusitis who were treated with a total of 237 injections of triamcinolone acetonide. The injections were either intraturbinate (152 injections) or intrapolyp (85 injections). One patient experienced a visual change following an intrapolyp injection, but it was transient and resolved spontaneously. The investigators also conducted a review of nine case series encompassing a total of 117,669 intranasal steroid injections, of which only three (0.003%) caused visual complications; all of these all resolved spontaneously without permanent visual deficit.[8]

Leukotrienes are formed during the breakdown of arachidonic acid by the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase. They are inflammatory mediators and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and nasal polyposis. As a result, they have become targets for therapeutic modulation. Early studies of leukotrienes synthesis inhibitors have shown improvements in nasal airflow and reduction in nasal polyps on endoscopy and imaging studies. Benefits appear to be greatest in patients with concomitant allergic rhinitis and eosinophilic infiltration of the nasal polyps on histology.

Research indicates that monoclonal antibodies can also be effective against nasal polyps.[9] For example, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel-group study, Bachert et al found that adding subcutaneous dupilumab to mometasone furoate nasal spray reduced the endoscopic nasal polyp burden in patients with corticosteroid-refractory nasal polyposis. The study included 51 patients with symptomatic chronic sinusitis and nasal polyposis that had proved refractory to intranasal corticosteroids, with those receiving the dupilumab/mometasone furoate combination experiencing better results against nasal polyps after 16 weeks than those receiving mometasone furoate plus placebo.[10]

Antifungal agents have no role in the management of nasal polyposis, but these agents may be useful in cases of allergic fungal sinusitis with polyposis.

Other agents with a possible role in management of nasal polyposis are macrolides antibiotics, topical diuretic therapy, and intranasal lysine–acetylsalicylic acid.


Surgical Care



See the list below:

  • Consultation with an allergist is beneficial for patients with a history of environmental allergies.
  • Allergy pharmacotherapy or immunotherapy is beneficial for patients with allergy symptoms.
  • Consultation with a pulmonologist is helpful for patients with lower airway allergy, asthma, or cystic fibrosis.


Dietary modifications should be considered in patients with food allergy and nasal polyposis. Controlling allergy in these patients is important, and recording a food diary or undergoing tests for food allergy may help control symptoms and slow polyp growth.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Sanford M Archer, MD Professor, Department of Surgery and Pediatrics, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Kentucky Medical Center

Sanford M Archer, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Head and Neck Society, American Rhinologic Society, Kentucky Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Robert M Kellman, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, State University of New York Upstate Medical University

Robert M Kellman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Head and Neck Society, American Rhinologic Society, Triological Society, American Neurotology Society, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA Professor of Otolaryngology, Dentistry, and Engineering, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Head and Neck Society

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Cerescan;RxRevu;SymbiaAllergySolutions<br/>Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: Symbia<br/>Received from Allergy Solutions, Inc for board membership; Received honoraria from RxRevu for chief medical editor; Received salary from Medvoy for founder and president; Received consulting fee from Corvectra for senior medical advisor; Received ownership interest from Cerescan for consulting; Received consulting fee from Essiahealth for advisor; Received consulting fee from Carespan for advisor; Received consulting fee from Covidien for consulting.

Additional Contributors

Eric J Moore, MD, FACS Residency Director, Associate Professor, Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine

Eric J Moore, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Head and Neck Society, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Nasal polyposis, right nasal passage.
Nasal polyposis, right nasal passage.
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