Nasal papillomas are benign epithelial tumors of the nasal cavity which mainly affect males between 40–60 years of age. The exact etiology is unknown, but human papillomavirus infection, smoking, and chronic sinusitis are predisposing factors for the development of nasal papillomas. There are three types of nasal papillomas. Inverted papilloma is the most common, arises from the lateral nasal wall and has the highest risk of malignant degeneration. Fungiform and oncocytic nasal papillomas are less common. Patients often present with unilateral nasal obstruction, anosmia, and intermittent epistaxis. On examination, nasal papillomas appear dull gray/pink and are friable. CT or MRI delineate the extent of the papilloma; diagnosis is established on biopsy. All nasal papillomas should be completely excised. Although benign, nasal papillomas are locally aggressive, have a malignant potential, and a high recurrence rate if incompletely excised.
Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.
- Possible predisposing factors
|Types of nasal papillomas||Frequency||Site of attachment||Gross appearance||Histology|
|Inverted papilloma|| || |
|Fungiform papilloma|| |
|Oncocytic papilloma (cylindrical cell papilloma)|| || |
- Unilateral nasal obstruction (most common symptom) → unilateral anosmia; difficult nasal breathing
- Unilateral nasal discharge
- Unilateral epiphora
- On examination:
- Unilateral dull pink/gray polypoid lesion which completely fills the nasal cavity → pushes the septum to the contralateral side
- Friable (bleeds on touch)
- Symptoms of chronic sinusitis
- CT scan with contrast: Indicated in unilateral nasal masses to differentiate benign from malignant masses; findings include:
- MRI: shows a cerebriform pattern
- Nasal endoscopy: indicated in all unilateral nasal masses to confirm the site of origin
- Biopsy: most important to confirm the diagnosis based on histology
- Nasal papilloma should be differentiated from other nasal masses.
A patient with unilateral difficulty breathing through the nose may have a malignant tumor!
The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.
- Complete surgical excision: treatment of choice for benign papilloma in good surgical candidates (because of high rates of recurrence if incompletely excised)
- Radiation: considered only in inoperable disease with malignant transformation or in poor surgical candidates
- Malignant deterioration (mostly squamous cell carcinoma)
- Intracranial extension (rare)
We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.
- High recurrence rates in incompletely resected nasal papillomas