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Don't Prescribe Antibiotics for Adult Sinus Woes
Date:3/13/2008

Most doctors can't discern when drugs will work, and when they won't, analysis finds

THURSDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- It's extremely difficult for doctors to tell the difference between sinus infections that can be cured by antibiotics and those that can't, a new review finds.

Given the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, the study authors urge that physicians give up using antibiotics altogether for adult patients with rhinosinusitis -- even when symptoms persist beyond a week.

"Antibiotics offer little benefit for patients with acute rhinosinusitis-like complaints," wrote the research team led by Dr. Jim Young of University Hospital Basel, Switzerland. "Antibiotics are not justified even if a patient reports symptoms for longer than 7-10 days," they added in the March 15 issue of The Lancet.

The European group noted that upper respiratory tract infections are responsible for a full third of doctor's appointments in the United States, and a third of those visits end in a diagnosis of rhinosinusitis. Currently, about 80 percent of patients receive a prescription for an antibiotic.

Antibiotics are only useful against bacterial disease -- they do not fight viral infections. But how good are doctors at distinguishing between the two in the typical clinical setting?

To find out, Young's group looked at data from nine trials with a total of more than 2,500 adult patients with rhinosinusitis. Doctors in the trials used a patient's medical history or symptoms -- for example, facial pain, pus-filled nasal discharge, or a prior cold -- that have been thought helpful in distinguishing a bacterial infection from a viral one.

Unfortunately, even these symptoms failed to help doctors determine whether antibiotics were appropriate. In fact, the analysis found that 15 patients with rhinosinusitis-like complaints had to be given antibiotics before one additional patient benefited fr
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