Management strategies for chronic rhinosinusitis: a qualitative study of GP and ENT specialist views of current practice in the UK

Jane Vennik, Caroline Eyles, Mike Thomas, Claire Hopkins, Paul Little, Helen Blackshaw, Anne Schilder, Jim Boardman, Carl M Philpott

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Objectives: To explore general practitioner (GP) and ears, nose and throat (ENT) specialist perspectives of current treatment strategies for chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) and care pathways through primary and secondary care.

Design: Semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews as part of the MACRO programme (Defining best Management for Adults with Chronic Rhinosinusitis)

Setting: Primary care and secondary care ENT outpatient clinics in the UK.

Participants: Twelve GPs and 9 ENT specialists consented to in-depth telephone interviews. Transcribed recordings were managed using NVivo software and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Main outcome measures: Healthcare professional views of management options and care pathways for CRS.

Results: GPs describe themselves as confident in recognising CRS, with the exception of assessing nasal polyps. In contrast, specialists report common missed diagnoses (eg, allergy; chronic headache) when patients are referred to ENT clinics, and attribute this to the limited ENT training of GPs. Steroid nasal sprays provide the foundation of treatment in primary care, although local prescribing restrictions can affect treatment choice and poor adherence is perceived to be the causes of inadequate symptom control. Symptom severity, poor response to medical treatment and patient pressure drive referral, although there is uncertainty about optimal timing. Treatment decisions in secondary care are based on disease severity, polyp status, prior medical treatment and patient choice, but there is major uncertainty about the place of longer courses of antibiotics and the use of oral steroids. Surgery is regarded as an important treatment option for patients with severe symptoms or with nasal polyps, although timing of surgery remains unclear, and the uncertainty about net long-term benefits of surgery makes balancing of benefits and risks more difficult.

Conclusions: Clinicians are uncertain about best management of patients with CRS in both primary and secondary care and practice is varied. An integrated care pathway for CRS is needed to improve patient management and timely referral.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere022643
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2018


  • rhinosinusitis
  • guidelines
  • qualitative health research

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