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WMJ. 2009 May;108(3):145-50.

The prescribing patterns of Wisconsin family physicians surrounding saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditions.

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University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Family Medicine, Madison, WI, USA.



Upper respiratory conditions are common and have a significant impact on patient quality of life, medical resource expenditure, and antibiotic use. Saline nasal irrigation (SNI) is an adjunctive therapy for upper respiratory conditions; clinical studies suggest that use of SNI may be effective for symptoms of upper respiratory conditions, and its popularity seems to be growing. The prescribing patterns of physicians regarding SNI have not yet been studied.


To assess the use among family physicians in Wisconsin of SNI, determine how and for which conditions they recommend SNI, and the degree to which they experience clinical success with SNI.


This was assessed by an electronic questionnaire of 330 practicing family physicians in the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians and Wisconsin Research and Education Network.


Analysis showed 286 of 330 respondents (87%) have used SNI as adjunctive care for a variety of upper respiratory conditions including chronic rhinosinusitis (91%), acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (67%), seasonal allergic rhinitis (66%), viral upper respiratory infection (59%), other allergic rhinitis (48%), irritant-based congestion (48%), and rhinitis of pregnancy (17%). Respondents also reported having used SNI prior to antibiotics for acute bacterial rhinosinusitis (77%). Use patterns varied regarding type of SNI administration, dosing frequency, saline concentration, and patient education.


This questionnaire-based study suggests that SNI is used by family physicians for a variety of upper respiratory conditions though recommendation and patient education styles, dosing schedules, and solution types vary.

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