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Fungal Sinusitis Workup

  • Author: Hassan H Ramadan, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
Updated: May 04, 2016

Laboratory Studies

Elevated total fungus-specific IgE concentrations are often found in patients with allergic fungal sinusitis. This is less common in patients with sinus mycetoma.

Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, one study examined the sinonasal tissue and secretions in patients with chronic rhinosinusitis for the presence of mycotoxins (ie, aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, ochratoxin, and fumonisin) to determine their possible role, if any, in chronic rhinosinusitis. No mycotoxins were found, except ochratoxin in 4 of 18 samples. The clinical significance of these results has not been determined.[7]

A study by Payne et al of 41 patients with acute invasive fungal rhinosinusitis reported that predictive variables for the disease include an absolute neutrophil count below 500/μL (sensitivity of 78%), abnormalities of the septal mucosa (specificity of 97%), and necrosis and mucosal abnormalities of the middle turbinate (specificities of 97% and 88%, respectively).[8]


Imaging Studies

CT scanning of the paranasal sinuses in the coronal views is essential in the evaluation of patients in whom fungal sinusitis is suspected.[9, 10]  Middlebrooks et al devised a seven-variable, computed tomography (CT) scan–based diagnostic model for acute invasive fungal rhinosinusitis. They reported that an abnormality associated with one of the model’s variables—which consist of periantral fat, bone dehiscence, orbital invasion, septal ulceration, the pterygopalatine fossa, the nasolacrimal duct, and the lacrimal sac—has a positive predictive value of 87%, a negative predictive value of 95%, a sensitivity of 95%, and a specificity of 86%, while the involvement of two variables gives the model a specificity of 100% and a positive predictive value of 100%.[11]

MRI with enhancement may be helpful in assessing patients with allergic fungal sinusitis and in patients in whom invasive fungal sinusitis is suspected.[10]  MRI may show low signal intensity, suggesting a fungal process versus a solid mass in allergic fungal sinusitis. It is also helpful in evaluating CNS spread in invasive fungal sinusitis.


Histologic Findings

In allergic fungal sinusitis, allergic mucin contains intact and degenerated eosinophils, Charcot-Leyden crystals, cellular debris, and sparse hyphae. The sinus mucosa has mixed cellular infiltrate of eosinophils, plasma cells, and lymphocytes. The mucus membrane is not invaded by fungi.

No allergic mucin is present in sinus mycetoma. However, the sinus contains dense material that consists of hyphae separate from but adjacent to the mucosa. The sinus mucosa is not invaded.

Histopathologic studies in acute invasive fungal sinusitis reveal hyphal invasion of the mucosa, submucosa, and blood vessels, including the carotid arteries and cavernous sinuses; vasculitis with thrombosis; hemorrhage; and tissue infarction.

Necrosis of the mucosa, submucosa, and blood vessels, with low-grade inflammation, is observed in chronic invasive fungal sinusitis.

Granuloma with multinucleated giant cells with pressure necrosis and erosion is observed in granulomatous invasive fungal sinusitis.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Hassan H Ramadan, MD, MSc Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, West Virginia University School of Medicine

Hassan H Ramadan, MD, MSc is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Rhinologic Society

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.

Stephen G Batuello, MD Consulting Staff, Colorado ENT Specialists

Stephen G Batuello, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Association for Physician Leadership, American Medical Association, Colorado Medical Society

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

Lanny Garth Close, MD Chair, Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Lanny Garth Close, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Head and Neck Society, American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Physicians, American Laryngological Association, New York Academy of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Axial CT scan of sinuses shows a right fungal maxillary sinusitis with an expanding mass (possibly aspergillosis).
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