Cranialization of the frontal sinus—the final remedy for refractory chronic frontal sinusitis

Clinical article

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Chronic sinusitis can be a debilitating disease with significant impact on quality of life. Frontal sinusitis has a relatively low prevalence, but complications can be severe due to its anatomical location. After failure of conservative measures, typically endoscopic procedures are performed to improve the drainage of the frontal sinus. The cranialization of the frontal sinus is the final surgical measure, in which the affected frontal sinus is truly removed. In this study the authors describe the surgical technique of cranialization of the frontal sinus for refractory chronic frontal sinusitis, systematically search the literature for its application, and assess patient satisfaction in a cohort of consecutively treated patients after long-term follow-up.


A consecutive cohort of 15 patients with refractory chronic frontal sinusitis was treated by cranialization of the frontal sinus and followed over a 20-year period (1989–2008) for the direct results and complications of the surgery. Long-term follow-up (mean 6.5 years) was obtained to assess the long-term effects of the cranialization.


In all patients the signs and symptoms of chronic frontal sinusitis responded very well to the cranialization. Five patients had surgical complications, of which 2 were serious. One patient died of an unrelated cause and 1 patient was lost to follow-up. The remaining 13 patients had a long-term follow-up, which revealed that 12 of them thought that their life was better after the surgical procedure.


Cranialization of the frontal sinus deserves consideration as the final remedy for refractory chronic frontal sinusitis after definite failure of other options.

Abbreviation used in this paper: ENT = ear, nose, and throat.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: J. M. C. van Dijk, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, AB71, University Medical Center Groningen, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands. email:

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online December 16, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.11.JNS101849.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Drawing showing the triangular midfrontobasal bone flap, containing the frontal sinus, seen from the inside.





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