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Sinus X-ray 'diagnostically unhelpful'

Sending patients with chronic sinusitis for X-ray is 'diagnostically unhelpful' and exposes them to unnecessary radiation, specialists warn.

An audit published in the February issue of the British Journal of General Practice found no correlation between X-ray findings, referral and subsequent treatment. GPs were responsible for 50 of 54 referrals for X-ray over a six-month period. Results were normal in 34 cases, abnormal in 16 and unavailable for review in four, but had no effect on the course of treatment.

Researchers said the practice of referring for X-ray was 'outdated' and pointed to recent European guidance recommending use of CT scan or nasal endoscope instead.

Dr Jonathan Hobson, ENT registrar at Hope Hospital in Manchester, said: 'Before the days of CT, the only way of imaging was to do a sinus X-ray or take people to theatre, but we can now use flexible nasal endoscopy. If a GP thinks a patient has chronic sinusitis they should treat with a topical sinus spray and if it continues they should refer straight to us.'

Dr Hobson carried out the audit after spotting that a lot of people referred to ENT had an X-ray in their notes.

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