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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UGA: Study Finds Limited Evidence to Diagnose Bacterial Sinusitis

Sinus infections remain a leading reason why patients are prescribed antibiotics they don’t need. But that may be because there isn’t a lot of guidance for clinicians on which signs and symptoms accurately point to a bacterial sinus infection, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

“The data on how to clinically diagnose sinusitis is not great,” said Dr. Mark Ebell, epidemiology and biostatistics professor at University of Georgia College of Public Health and study lead author.

In the study appearing in the Annals of Family Medicine, Dr. Ebell and his co-authors sought to identify whether certain symptoms, such as cough, headache, or discolored mucus, best predicted the presence of a bacterial sinus infection.

They found that the clinician’s overall impression of the patient’s symptoms, which relies on the doctor’s experience and judgment, was the most accurate method of diagnosis. A patient complaint of a foul odor and pain in the upper teeth were the second and third, respectively, most accurate symptoms of sinus infection.

This study is one of over 30 systematic reviews and meta-analyses Dr. Ebell has conducted over his career, and he sees them as an important part of advancing the field as well as training the next generation of health professionals who are interested in questions concerning medical practice and public health.

Dr. Ebell’s co-authors were either master’s and doctoral students at the UGA College of Public. Each were involved in reviewing and selecting the studies to include in the meta-analysis, which Dr. Ebell says is good experience for public health students at the early stages of their careers. They also participated in the analysis, and helped to write the final article.

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