Ancestry-based variation in maxillary sinus anatomy: Implications for health disparities in sinonasal disease

Suhhyun Kim, Lyndee A. Ward, Lauren N. Butaric, Scott D. Maddux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Paranasal sinus drainage is mediated by mucociliary transport and gravity. However, human orthograde posture, along with the superior positioning of the maxillary sinus (MS) ostium, increases reliance on the mucociliary system. Previous research has thus suggested that differences in MS size and shape may impede mucociliary clearance, potentially contributing to disparities in sinusitis susceptibility. To further investigate this hypothesis, this study collected 29 three-dimensional (3D) coordinate landmarks and seven linear measurements of MS morphology from 167 computed tomography (CT) scans of crania of European, East Asian, or Equatorial African ancestry. MANOVA results reveal the Asian-derived individuals are characterized by both a significantly taller MS (F = 14.15, p < 0.0001) and a significantly greater distance from the MS floor to the ostium (F = 17.22, p < 0.0001) compared to those of European and African ancestry. A canonical variate (CV) analysis conducted on 3D landmark data provides corroborative results, distinguishing Asian-derived individuals predominantly on the basis of a relatively lower MS floor. As a greater distance between the MS floor and ostium may impede mucociliary clearance, our results suggest MS anatomy may be a more prominent factor in chronic sinusitis among individuals of Asian ancestry compared to those of European and African ancestries. This provides tentative evidence of an anatomical etiology for chronic sinusitis even in the absence of anatomical variants/abnormalities (e.g., nasal polyps, concha bullosa, Haller's cells, and Agger nasi cells). Further research into the relationship between MS anatomy and sinusitis, in addition to socioeconomic inequalities of healthcare, is warranted to continue evaluating possible contributions to health disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-36
Number of pages19
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • minority health
  • nasal Fontanelle
  • ostium
  • paranasal sinuses
  • sinusitis


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