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Health Technol Assess. 2003;7(17):iii, 1-159.

Systematic review of endoscopic sinus surgery for nasal polyps.

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Peninsula Technology Assessment Group, Exeter, UK.



To provide a systematic review of the clinical effectiveness of endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS) for the removal of nasal polyps.


Searches of electronic databases, websites and reference lists were made to identify relevant studies.


An extensive search was performed to identify all articles where FESS is used for the excision of nasal polyps. Two reviewers independently screened articles for inclusion according to predefined criteria. Comparative studies were included if they were primary research, focused on FESS for the removal of nasal polyps, reported patient relevant outcomes and were published in English. In addition, case series studies were included if they met the above criteria and enrolled more than 50 patients with polyps. Data were then extracted by one reviewer and checked by a second. A structured form was used to assess the internal and external validity of included studies. Comparative data were reported where available. Excluded case series and case reports were grouped and described. A group of nine ear, nose and throat (ENT) experts were selected, then using the literature and their own experience, they generated a list of priority research questions. Existing economic evaluations were sought and described.


Of the 33 studies included, the randomised controlled trials and controlled trials reported overall symptomatic improvement that ranged from 78 to 88% for FESS compared with 43 to 84% for similar techniques (including polypectomy, Caldwell-Luc and intranasal ethmoidectomy). Disease recurrence was 8% for FESS compared with 14% for Caldwell-Luc and polyp recurrence was 28% for endoscopic ethmoidectomy compared with 35% for polypectomy. Revision surgery was reported in one study only and was the same for FESS and Caldwell-Luc procedures. Percentage of overall complications was reported in only one comparative study and was 1.4% for FESS compared with 0.8% for conventional procedures. The case series studies reported overall symptomatic improvement for patients with nasal polyps ranging from 37 to 99% (median 89%). For the mixed patient groups (with and without polypoid disease) overall symptomatic improvement ranged from 40 to 98% (median 88%). Total complications in the case series studies ranged from 22.4 to 0.3% (median 6%).


The majority of studies report that symptoms improve following FESS with relatively few complications; however, only a small proportion of evidence is comparative. Results from non-comparative studies do not inform the choices that need to be made by ENT surgeons and commissioners. Health economics data are also lacking and therefore cannot inform these decisions. FESS may offer some advantages in effectiveness over comparative techniques, but there is enormous variation in the range of results reported and there are severe methodological limitations. There is a clear need for quality-controlled trials in order to answer questions regarding the effectiveness of FESS. A number of priority research questions from a selection of ENT surgeons within the UK are identified and presented.

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