It has long been known that diseases of the nose and sinus and lung diseases often occur simultaneously, but it is still unclear whether the concomitant disease in both areas is the same disease or coexisting but mutually different diseases.
A recognized hypothesis - called "United Airways" - suggests that the airways from the nose to the lungs should be considered as one body, and disease will therefore often be placed in both the nose and sinuses and lungs. In other words: One airway, one disease.
Based on the "United Airways" hypothesis PhD student Kåre Håkansson explores the link between chronic sinusitis and the lung disease asthma. The study looks at patients suffering from chronic sinusitis with polyps and tries to figure out how many cases of asthma are found in this patient group.
If there is many patients suffering from asthma as well, it indicates that there is a direct correlation between disease in the nose and sinuses and in the lungs, which means that a person is prone to suffer from asthma if he or she has chronic sinusitis and polyps.
There is no good treatment for the approximately 2-4 percent of the Danish population who suffer from chronic sinusitis with polyps, and little is known about what underlies the disease. Symptoms include decreased sense of smell and sultry facial pain, which can be tremendously inconvenient for patients and reduces their quality of life considerably - in some cases to the same degree as patients with COPD (emphysema), asthma or inflammatory bowel diseases Kåre Håkansson with patient.
Although you cannot cure chronic sinusitis, it is still possible to help many patients. The most important treatment is to restore the normal air passage in the nose, and thus get better drainage from the sinuses. This may be done using nose drops, which causes mucous membranes to pull together, but it may also be necessary to operate.
The preliminary results of the project, which is a collaboration between Ear, Nose and Throat Surgical and Audiological clinic at Rigshospitalet and Pulmonary Medicine department at Bispebjerg Hospital, shows that 70 percent of the surveyed patients with chronic sinusitis and polyps actually have asthma.The project is the first of its kind in a Danish context, but the results confirm the international research in this area. The unique thing about this project however, is the successful collaboration with the lung department at Bispebjerg Hospital who contributes with lung expertise, which traditionally would not be included in an exclusive ear-nose-throat research project.
A successful cooperation
Historically, the two specialties have not worked together, but the preliminary successes of this project clearly shows the need for closer cooperation between the two disciplines. Hopefully the results of the project will lead to more focus on the lungs of the patients with chronic sinusitis and therefore better treatment in a closer cooperation between the ear, nose and throat doctors and pulmonary physicians.
Similarly, a close cooperation with an ear-nose-throat department in all likelihood will benefit patients with lung disease. It is for example known, that up to 10% of asthma patients have nasal polyps that should be addressed. Thus, research suggests that asthmatics with chronic sinusitis experience a beneficial effect on their asthma when they have treated their nose and sinus disease.