Primary care and upfront computed tomography scanning in the diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis: A cost-based decision analysis

Randy M. Leung*, Rakesh K. Chandra, Robert C. Kern, David B. Conley, Bruce K. Tan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis To diagnose chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), current guidelines require either endoscopic or computed tomography (CT) findings of sinus disease. To a primary care physician, this means a referral to an otolaryngologist or obtaining a CT scan. Unfortunately, the sensitivity of endoscopy for detecting CRS is low, and examination by the Otolaryngologist may not yield a definitive diagnosis. This leaves CT scanning. However, this is contradicted by recommendations to limit CT scanning for only preoperative planning purposes due to cost concerns. This study aims to provide an evidence-based cost-efficient recommendation for primary care practice. Study Design Health care economics-based decision analysis model. Methods A cost-based decision analysis based on literature-reported probabilities and Medicare costs was constructed for two scenarios: 1) primary care physicians who are comfortable initiating first-line treatment for chronic rhinosinusitis, rhinitis, and atypical facial pain; and 2) primary care physicians who are less comfortable with medical management of these conditions. Results Under both scenarios and the extremes of sensitivity analysis, upfront CT scanning provides cost-efficient diagnosis over presuming a diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis. Primary care physicians who attempt first-line treatment can expect 503 (range = 296-761) saved per patient. Meanwhile, primary care physicians who prefer to refer may expect 326 (range = 299-353) saved per patient. Conclusions In all scenarios, confirming diagnosis with CT scanning prior to treatment or referral is more cost-efficient than presuming a diagnosis of CRS based on symptoms alone. Level of Evidence 2c. Laryngoscope, 124:12-18, 2014

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • computed tomography scanning
  • corticosteroids
  • empiric medical therapy
  • evidence-based medicine
  • health economics
  • imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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