Symptoms and Clinical Findings in Primary Headache Syndrome Versus Chronic Rhinosinusitis

Daniel D. Sharbel, Harry C. Owen, Joshua C. Yelverton, Mingsi Li, Thomas Holmes, Stilianos E. Kountakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Primary headache syndrome (PHS) patients frequently present to otolaryngologists with sinonasal complaints and diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) due to symptomatic overlap. In this study, we compare demographic, subjective, and objective clinical findings of patients with PHS versus CRS. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed a database of patients presenting to a single tertiary care Rhinology clinic from December 2011—July 2017. Sino-Nasal Outcome Test-22 (SNOT) scores and Lund-Kennedy endoscopy scores were obtained. Lund-MacKay CT scores were calculated, if available. Requirement of headache specialist management was compared between PHS and CRS groups. Patients with both CRS and PHS (CRScPHS) that required headache specialist management were compared to patients with CRS without PHS (CRSsPHS) and patients with PHS alone using Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were carried out to determine significant diagnostic thresholds. Results: One-hundred four PHS patients and 130 CRS patients were included. PHS patients (72.1%) were more likely than CRS patients to require headache specialist management (6.9%, p<0.0001). CRSsPHS patients had significantly higher Nasal domain scores compared to PHS patients (p = 0.042) but not compared to CRScPHS patients (p>0.99). CRScPHS (p = 0.0003) and PHS (p<0.0001) subgroups of patients had significantly higher Aural/Facial domain scores compared to CRSsPHS patients. PHS patients also had significantly higher Sleep domains scores compared to CRSsPHS patients (p<0.0001). Both CRScPHS and CRSsPHS subgroups had significantly higher nasal endoscopy scores (p<0.0001) and CT scores (p = 0.04 & p<0.0001, respectively) compared to the PHS group. Aural/Facial domain score of 4, nasal endoscopy score of 4, and CT score of 2 were found to be reliable diagnostic thresholds for absence of CRS. Conclusions: The SNOT-22 may be used to distinguish PHS from CRS based upon the Aural/Facial and Sleep domains. Patients with CRS have more severe Nasal domain scores and worse objective endoscopy and CT findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-314
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Rhinology and Allergy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Sino-Nasal Outcome Test
  • chronic rhinosinusitis
  • facial pain
  • headache
  • migraine
  • primary headache syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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