If you feel like you're constantly stopped up and can't breathe, you're not alone.
Adults and children are susceptible to sinus issues, especially in Kentucky, where we consistently rank as one of the worst states for allergens.
But for those experiencing chronic sinusitis (four or five sinus infections per year), a chat with your otolaryngologist, or ear, nose, and throat doctor, about more long-term solutions may be in order.
After medical management has been exhausted, sinus surgery may be recommended. Endoscopic sinus surgery involves opening of the passageway into the sinus cavities. With this method, however, patients can expect an uncomfortable and sometimes long recovery. This could create up to two weeks of lost work.
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Modern science has introduced a new technology in the last decade, which will lead to faster recovery time, less pain and excellent results.
Borrowing from the method by which a cardiologist would open clogged coronary arteries with a balloon in the cath lab, preventing the need for open-heart surgery, ENTs are now able to use this same type of technology to gently open small sinus passages. The technology is called balloon sinuplasty.
Recurring sinusitis is caused by blockage of the openings into the sinus cavities, thus preventing natural drainage and allowing for infection. Using a catheter, an ENT will push a small balloon into the sinus cavity. Then, by filling up the balloon, the sinus cavity bone will be fractured and remodeled as the balloon expands. These small breaks will then heal in their new place, creating a larger sinus cavity opening. In most cases, this type of procedure can open a 1 millimeter opening into one that is six to seven times larger. This prevents future buildup of fluid and infection, allowing proper drainage.
Another benefit of enlarging the sinus passages means that medicines can enter sinuses easier, allowing more effective treatment of future sinus issues.
For some people, balloon sinuplasty may not be enough on its own to treat sinus issues. For those with nasal polyps, which add further blockage, polypectomy (removal of polyps) would be required. Others may need other sinus cavities opened in a traditional manner.
Balloon sinuplasty offers many benefits. In some cases, it can be done as an outpatient procedure in your doctor's office. Because no incisions are required, and no general anesthesia is needed, healing times with balloon sinuplasty are much faster than with traditional sinus surgery.
Overall recovery time may be just three to four days, with less drainage, bleeding and pain than with traditional surgery. For most patients, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Advil or Tylenol are the only medications needed.
If you're prone to chronic sinusitis, and are interested in minimally invasive ways to improve your health, a visit to your ENT and balloon sinuplasty may be an option to help.