Surfactant improves irrigant penetration into unoperated sinuses

Joseph W. Rohrer, Greg R. Dion, Pryor S. Brenner, Wesley M. Abadie, Kevin C. McMains, Roy F. Thomas, Erik K. Weitzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Saline irrigations are proving to be a valuable intervention in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. The use of surfactants is a well established additive to topical treatments known to reduce surface tension and may prove to be a simple, nonoperative intervention to improve intrasinus douching penetration. Methods: Six 30-mL, flat-bottomed medicine cups with circular holes cut through the bottom center and varying in diameter from 1 to 6 mm were created with punch biopsies. Water, saline, saline/dye, and saline/dye/surfactant were compared for maximum holding pressure via these modeled ostia. Holding pressures also were determined for cups with septal mucosa fused to the bottom with holes ranging from 1 to 6 mm. In addition, analysis was carried out with blood and blood/surfactant. Finally, five thawed, fresh-frozen cadaver heads were evaluated before any sinus surgery with water/dye and water/dye/surfactant for intrasinus penetration. Results: Surfactant significantly improved the ability of all solutions to penetrate ostia in both the plastic cup and fused septal mucosa model. All nonsurfactant-containing solutions were not statistically different from one another, nor did surfactant change the ostial penetration of blood. Surfactant significantly improved the ability of sinus irrigant to penetrate unoperated sinus cavities (3.12 vs 3.5, p = .021). Conclusions: The addition of surfactant to saline irrigation improves ostial penetration in undissected and undiseased cadavers. This has practical implications for unoperated patients seeking care for sinus-related symptoms in that we have now described a method for improving topical treatment of target sinus mucosa prior to surgical intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-200
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Rhinology and Allergy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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