Incidental sinusitis in a pediatric intensive care unit*

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Intubation is a risk factor for nosocomial sinusitis in adult intensive care patients. Sinusitis in intubated adults can be an occult cause of fever. In children, nasal intubation may increase the risk of sinusitis. No pediatric study has determined the frequency of nosocomial sinusitis in the pediatric intensive care unit setting. We hypothesized that within a subset of patients who had head computed tomography imaging 1) the incidental frequency of sinusitis in pediatric intensive care unit patients exceeds the frequency in non-pediatric intensive care unit patients, 2) the frequency of sinusitis is greater in pediatric intensive care unit patients with a tube (nasotracheal, nasogastric, orotracheal, or orogastric) compared to those without a tube, and 3) nasal tubes confer an increased risk for sinusitis over oral tubes.


Retrospective chart review.


Independent not-for-profit pediatric healthcare system.


Pediatric intensive care unit and non-pediatric intensive care unit (inpatients hospitalized on medical-surgical wards) patients referred for head computed tomography.



Measurements and Main Results:

Computed tomography images were scored using the Lund-MacKay staging system. Sinusitis was defined as a Lund-MacKay score ≥5. A total of 596 patients were studied, 395 (66.3%) in the pediatric intensive care unit. A total of 154 (44.3%) pediatric intensive care unit vs. 54 (26.9%) non-pediatric intensive care unit patients had sinusitis (p < .001). A total of 102 of 147 (69.4%) pediatric intensive care unit patients with a tube present had sinusitis vs. 73 of 248 (29.4%) patients without a tube present (p < .001). There was no difference in sinusitis based on tube location (p = .472). Of patients with sinusitis, 51.3% (81 of 158) compared to 39.4% (89 of 226) were febrile within 48 hrs of imaging (p = .021). A younger age or the presence of a tube increased the probability of sinusitis (p < .001).


A total of 44.3% of our pediatric intensive care unit patients imaged for reasons other than evaluation for sinus disease had evidence of sinusitis, and 51.3% of these had fever. These findings raise the concern that sinusitis in pediatric intensive care unit patients is common and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of fever in pediatric intensive care unit patients.

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