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Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis


  • Acute bacterial (bak-TE-re-al) rhinosinusitis (RI-no-si-nu-SI-tis), or ABRS, is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. Sinuses are hollow spaces inside the skull, located behind the bones in your forehead, cheeks, and eyes.
    Picture of a normal nose
  • They are lined by mucous membranes that are clean and sterile (germ-free). Sinuses have cilia (small hairs) that help drain mucus into the nose through small openings called ostia. Bacteria (germs) infecting the lining of the nasal passages and sinuses usually cause the inflammation of ABRS. ABRS usually happens after having a common cold or allergy, and lasts not more than four weeks. You may feel pain or pressure in your face around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes. Your nose may be clogged and there may be a thick and colored discharge present. You may also have a headache, fever, cough, or toothache.
  • ABRS is diagnosed based on symptoms present and how long you have them. ABRS is usually considered when symptoms have not improved after 10 days or have gotten worse after 5 to 7 days. Tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or x-rays may also be needed for diagnosis. Treatment includes antibiotic medicines to fight infection, and medicines to ease the symptoms. Diagnosing and treating ABRS as soon as possible may prevent further problems and improve quality of life.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Left untreated, ABRS may lead to worsening of asthma or lung infection. Your airway may become blocked and cause breathing problems. The bacteria causing your rhinosinusitis may spread to other parts of your body. ABRS may also lead to chronic sinusitis, meningitis, abscess (pus) inside the skull, brain, and eyes. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your ABRS, care, or treatment.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier.


A humidifier may be used to moisten the air and help you breathe easier. The moist air makes it easier to cough up your sputum (mucus from the lungs).


You may need any of the following:

  • Computed tomography scan: This is also called a CT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your sinuses. Dye may be given before the pictures are taken. The dye may help sinus disease, abnormality, or other problems show up better in the pictures. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp), as you may also be allergic to this dye.
  • Culture: This is a test that may help caregivers learn which type of germ is causing your disease. A sample taken from the nose using an endoscope is cultured. A needle may also be inserted directly into your sinuses to get fluid and tissue samples. A catheter (thin rubber tube) may also be placed into the sinus.
  • Endoscopy: This test uses a scope to see the inside of your nose. A scope is usually made of a long, bendable tube with a light on the end of it. A camera may be hooked to the scope to take pictures. During an endoscopy, caregivers may look into the part of your nose where the sinuses drain. Samples may be taken from the inside of your nose and sent to a lab for tests.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is called an MRI. During the MRI, pictures are taken of your sinuses. An MRI may also be used to look at your nose, face, and skull. You will need to lie still during an MRI. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This can cause serious injury.
  • Ultrasound: This is a test that uses sound waves to look inside your nose and sinus area. Pictures are shown on a TV-like screen. Your caregiver may do an ultrasound to better see your sinuses, and to look for pus.
  • X-rays: You may need to have x-rays of your nose, face, and sinuses taken. This will help your caregiver know if you have any problems with any of these. You may need more than one x-ray.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acute Bacterial Rhinosinusitis (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.