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Surgical intervention for chronic rhinosinusitis

Surgical intervention for chronic rhinosinusitis

Best Practice Guidance


Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is defined as inflammation (swelling) of the nasal sinuses that lasts longer than 12 weeks. The sinuses are mucus secreting, air filled cavities in the face and head that drain into the nose; their normal function may be disrupted by environmental, infectious or inflammatory conditions which damage the epithelial lining and disturb the balance of the natural microbial community. Patients report a number of symptoms including nasal blockage, discharge, alteration to smell, and facial pressure or pain. They often have a relapsing course, with recurrence after treatment commonplace. Absenteeism and presenteeism are widespread.

It is a common chronic condition that affects approximately 11% of adults and has a significant detrimental effect on the quality of life of those affected, thus creating a significant disease burden.

CRS as a term encompasses a wide range of phenotypes but can broadly be divided into two main types. Chronic rhinosinusitis with Nasal Polyposis (CRSwNP) and Chronic Rhinosinusitis without Nasal Polyposis (CRSsNP). First-line treatment is with appropriate medical therapy, which should include intranasal steroids and nasal saline irrigation. In the case of CRSwNP a trial of a short course of oral steroids should also be considered.

Where first-line medical treatment has failed patients should be referred for diagnostic confirmation and they then may be considered for endoscopic sinus surgery. This involves surgery using a telescope via the nasal cavity to open the sinuses and, if present, remove nasal polyps, both improving the effectiveness of ongoing medical therapy and relieving obstruction. The surgery is usually undertaken under general anaesthetic as a day-case procedure in otherwise healthy individuals.


This guidance applies to adults and children.


Patients are eligible to be referred for specialist secondary care assessment in any of the following circumstances:

  • A clinical diagnosis of CRS has been made (as set out in RCS/ENT-UK Commissioning guidance) in primary care and patient still has moderate / severe symptoms after a 3-month trial of intranasal steroids and nasal saline irrigation.


  • In addition, for patients with bilateral nasal polyps there has been no improvement in symptoms 4 weeks after a trial of 5-10 days of oral steroids (0.5mg/kg to a max of 60 mg)


  • Patient has nasal symptoms with an unclear diagnosis in primary care


  • Any patient with unilateral symptoms or clinical findings, orbital, or neurological features should be referred urgently / via 2-week wait depending on local pathways.

No investigations, apart from clinical assessment, should take place in primary care or be a pre-requisite for referral to secondary care (e.g. X-ray, CT scan). There is no role for prolonged courses of antibiotics in primary care. Patients can be considered for endoscopic sinus surgery when the following criteria are met:

  • A diagnosis of CRS has been confirmed from clinical history and nasal endoscopy and / or CT scan


  • Disease-specific symptom patient reported outcome measure confirms moderate to severe symptoms e.g. Sinonasal Outcome Test (SNOT-22) after trial of appropriate medical therapy (including counselling on technique and compliance) as outlined in RCS/ENT-UK commissioning guidance ‘Recommended secondary care pathway’.


  • Pre-operative CT sinus scan has been performed and confirms presence of CRS. Note: a CT sinus scan does not necessarily need to be repeated if performed sooner in the patient’s pathway.


  • Patient and clinician have undertaken appropriate shared decision nmaking consultation regarding undergoing surgery including discussion of risks and benefits of surgical intervention.


  • In patients with recurrent acute sinusitis, nasal examination is likely to be relatively normal. Ideally, the diagnosis should be confirmed during an acute attack if possible, by nasal endoscopy and/or a CT sinus scan.


There are a number of medical conditions whereby endoscopic sinus surgery may be required outside the above criteria and in these cases they should not be subjected to the above criteria and continue to be routinely funded:

  • Any suspected or confirmed neoplasia
  • Emergency presentations with complications of sinusitis (e.g. orbital abscess, subdural or intracranial abscess)
  • Patients with immunodeficiency
  • Fungal Sinusitis
  • Patients with conditions such as Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, Cystic Fibrosis or NSAID-Eosinophilic Respiratory Disease (NSAID-ERD, Samter’sTriad Aspirin Sensitivity, Asthma, CRS)
  • Treatment with topical and / or oral steroids contra-indicated.
  • As part of surgical access or dissection to treat non-sinus disease (e.g. pituitary surgery, orbital decompression for eye disease, nasolacrimal surgery).

Rationale for recommendation

There is a strong evidence base and expert consensus opinion to support the medical management of chronic rhinosinusitis with intranasal steroids and nasal saline irrigation as a first-line treatment. They are low cost and low risk, with newer generations of nasal steroids safe for long-term use owing to minimal systemic absorption.

There is also evidence to support the trial of oral steroids, but only when nasal polyposis is present. The benefits of oral steroids should be balanced against the risks when considering repeated courses. A Cochrane review has demonstrated the benefits of oral steroids can last up to three months; however the risks and side effects must be balanced against benefit for the patient with repeated courses.

There is evidence to support that when endoscopic sinus surgery is performed in appropriately selected patients (as outlined in the recommendation), it will lead to a significant and durable improvement in symptoms. There is also evidence that patients who undergo surgery early in their disease course will have a longer and more beneficial impact from the surgery. All national and international guidelines support consideration of endoscopic sinus surgery once appropriate medical therapy has failed.

It is important to note that there is currently a UK multidisciplinary randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing medical therapy with surgery in the management of chronic rhinosinusitis (MACRO Trial: The outcome of this trial may lead to modification of guidance for sinus surgery in due course.

Endoscopic sinus surgery is generally safe and low risk. Risks include bleeding, infection, scar tissue formation, and very rarely, orbital injury or cerebrospinal fluid leak (with associated risk of meningitis). Patients should be counselled that there is a risk of recurrent symptoms and that ongoing medical treatment is normally required to maintain symptom improvement after endoscopic sinus surgery.

Patient information

Information for Patients

Surgery (an operation) to relieve the symptoms of chronic sinusitis (also known as chronic rhinosinusitis) is only appropriate for very few people. Medical evidence tells us that, for most people, alternative treatments are more effective. In those few people who really need surgery, an operation using a small telescope in the nasal (nose) cavity to open the sinuses may improve their symptoms.

About the condition

The nasal sinuses are air-filled spaces in the face and head. They produce mucous that drains into the nose. Chronic sinusitis is swelling of the nasal sinuses that lasts for longer than 12 weeks. It is a common condition that affects about one in ten adults. Symptoms include a blocked nose, discharge from the nose, changes to the sense of smell and pressure or pain in your face.

Blockage in the sinuses can be caused by infections, inflammation or allergies.

What are the BENEFITS of the operation?

For a small number of people, surgery to the sinuses will improve their symptoms.

What are the RISKS?

There is a risk that the operation will not improve your symptoms and you will still need to take treatments (medical therapy). The risks of this type of endoscopic (telescope) operation include bleeding, infection, scar tissue formation, injury around the eye and, very rarely, a risk of meningitis.

What are the ALTERNATIVES?

Medical treatments are effective for most people. These include nasal washes with salt water, nasal steroid sprays and possibly a course of oral steroids. You can discuss these alternatives with your doctor or pharmacist so you can decide what is best for you.

What if you do NOTHING?

You will avoid an operation and the risks the operation carries. It is likely that your symptoms will continue if you do nothing.


Code Script

WHEN ( (apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E081%’ 
OR apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E1[257][123489]%’ 
OR apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E1[34][1-9]%’ 
OR apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E14[1-9]%’
OR apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E16[1289]%’
OR apcs.der_procedure_all like '%E641%’) 
AND apcs.der_procedure_all like '%Y76[12]%’ )
AND (der.Spell_Primary_Diagnosis like '%J310%’ 
OR der.Spell_Primary_Diagnosis like'J32[0123489]%’ 
OR der.Spell_Primary_Diagnosis like'J33[0189]%’ ) 
AND APCS.Admission_Method not like ('2%’) 
THEN '2C_sinus_surgery'

Code Definitions

Procedure codes (OPCS)

E081 Polypectomy of internal nose
E121 Ligation of maxillary artery using sublabial approach
E122 Drainage of maxillary antrum using sublabial approach
E123 Irrigation of maxillary antrum using sublabial approach
E124 Transantral neurectomy of vidian nerve using sublabial approach
E128 Other specified operations on maxillary antrum using sublabial approach
E129 Unspecified operations on maxillary antrum using sublabial approach
E131 Drainage of maxillary antrum NEC
E132 Excision of lesion of maxillary antrum
E133 Intranasal antrostomy
E134 Biopsy of lesion of maxillary antrum
E135 Closure of fistula between maxillary antrum and mouth
E136 Puncture of maxillary antrum
E137 Neurectomy of vidian nerve NEC
E138 Other specified other operations on maxillary antrum
E139 Unspecified other operations on maxillary antrum
E141 External frontoethmoidectomy
E142 Intranasal ethmoidectomy
E143 External ethmoidectomy
E144 Transantral ethmoidectomy
E145 Bone flap to frontal sinus
E146 Trephine of frontal sinus
E147 Median drainage of frontal sinus
E148 Other specified operations on frontal sinus
E149 Unspecified operations on frontal sinus
E151 Drainage of sphenoid sinus
E152 Puncture of sphenoid sinus
E153 Repair of sphenoidal sinus
E154 Excision of lesion of sphenoid sinus
E158 Other specified operations on sphenoid sinus
E159 Unspecified operations on sphenoid sinus
E161 Frontal sinus osteoplasty
E162 Drainage of frontal sinus NEC
E168 Other specified other operations on frontal sinus
E169 Unspecified other operations on frontal sinus
E171 Excision of nasal sinus NEC
E172 Excision of lesion of nasal sinus NEC
E173 Biopsy of lesion of nasal sinus NEC
E174 Lateral rhinotomy into nasal sinus NEC
E178 Other specified operations on unspecified nasal sinus
E179 Unspecified operations on unspecified nasal sinus
E641 Endoscopic extirpation of lesion of nasal cavity
Y761 Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (secondary to one of the codes above)
Y762 Functional endoscopic nasal surgery (secondary to one of the codes above)

Diagnosis codes (ICD)

J310 Chronic rhinitis
J320 Chronic maxillary sinusitis
J321 Chronic frontal sinusitis
J322 Chronic ethmoidal sinusitis
J323 Chronic sphenoidal sinusitis
J324 Chronic pansinusitis
J328 Other chronic sinusitis
J329 Chronic sinusitis, unspecified
J330 Polyp of nasal cavity
J331 Polypoid sinus degeneration
J338 Other polyp of sinus
J339 Nasal polyp, unspecified

apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%C[0-9][0-9]%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D0%' and 
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D3[789]%' and
apcs.der_diagnosis_all not like '%D4[012345678]%’

This code captures code in the ranges C00-C99, D00-D09 and D37-D48.
Age range: the codes use the following age ranges 0-18 for children and 19-120
for adults.
— Private Appointment Exclusion
AND apcs.Administrative_Category<>’02’


  1. Royal College of Surgeons (2016) Commissioning Guide: Chronic Rhinosinusitis.
  2. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary – Sinusitis
  3. Hastan D, Fokkens WJ, Bachert C, et al. Chronic rhinosinusitis in europe- an underestimated disease. A GA(2)LEN study. Allergy. 2011;66(9):1216-1223. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2011.02646.x [doi].
  4. Orlandi RR, Kingdom TT, Hwang PH, et al. International consensus statement on allergy and rhinology: Rhinosinusitis. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2016;6 Suppl 1:22. doi: 10.1002/alr.21695 [doi].
  5. Fokkens WJ, Lund VJ, Mullol J, et al. EPOS 2012: European position paper on rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps 2012. A summary for otorhinolaryngologists. Rhinology. 2012;50(1):1-12. doi: 10.4193/Rhino50E2 [doi].

How up to date is this information?

Last revised December 2023


December 2023 - Coding updated. August 2022 - Coding updated