nasal polyps

Last reviewed 01/2018

Nasal polyps are yellowish, grey, pedunculated sacs which usually cause progressive nasal obstruction.

Most polyps are bilateral.

A unilateral polyp should be assumed to be neoplastic until proven otherwise - this is an often quoted ENT rule. This reflects that conventionally, all unilateral polyps and suspicious-looking polyps are sent for histological examination (2). Note though that neoplasia may occur in bilateral polyps (2)

  • a retrospective review of nasal polypectomy operations was performed (3). The commonest indications for requesting histology were unilateral polyps, abnormal appearance and a history of bleeding. Two per cent of polyps were tumours, of which half were malignant (3)

They may occur at any age but are uncommon in childhood. They are more common in males, except in asthmatics in whom both sexes are equally affected.

Most originate from the ethmoid sinuses.

Irrespective of their management, most will recur.


  1. The Practitioner 1997; 241: 620.
  2. Clin Otolaryngol. 2001 ;26(4):321-3.
  3. Clin Otolaryngol. 1990;15(3):217-9