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Sinus surgery is most often recommended for people who still have chronic sinusitis after other treatments have not worked. Traditional sinus surgeries are well established and effective, but bone and tissue are often removed, and this can result in a recovery time of up to a couple of weeks and may be painful. Balloon sinuplasty (BSP) can be an option for some patients; it is fairly straightforward, reported complications are minimal and there's no cutting or removal of bones or tissue. BSP is a form of endoscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery) in which a balloon is inserted into the sinuses and then expanded to clean out mucus and expand blocked openings.
BSP works with the natural openings of the sinuses and causes less damage with a much lower risk of scarring. Traditional, more invasive, sinus surgery requires anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks of recovery time or time off work. With BSP there is less pain and less bleeding afterwards and you can often return to normal activities and work within one to two days. This is because the sinus passages are widened and there is no cutting, tearing or ripping of the tissue. BSP may be performed in a hospital or surgical center with the patient under general anesthesia but can sometimes be done under local anesthesia with sedation in the office of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. Your Valley ENT specialist will be able to discuss if you are a good candidate for BSP and the most appropriate setting for you.
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BSP is normally recommended for patients who have chronic sinusitis that persists despite antibiotics and steroids, or who have recurrent acute sinusitis at least three times each year. Your Valley ENT specialist will first rule out other possible underlying causes of the sinus problems, such as allergies and deformations of the nasal cavity. A CT scan can safely verify if you have mild sinus disease, with primarily bony obstruction as opposed to swelling. Patients with significant nasal polyps are not likely to be helped with BSP alone.
Your ENT specialist will insert a tiny flashlight at the end of a wire into your sinus cavity so that they can see what they're doing. Next, they'll insert a very slim and flexible balloon catheter into your sinus passage. The balloon is then slowly inflated to expand the sinus opening. As the balloon inflates, it will gently open up the sinus passages and help drain out any blockages.
While the balloon is in the sinus passage, it slightly restructures the bones around your sinuses. Your doctor will flush out built-up pus and mucus in the sinus cavity with a saline (salt) solution. You may feel a decrease in sinus pressure when this happens. Once this process is complete, your doctor will remove the balloon allowing the sinus to drain normally and relieving the symptoms and the infection. The sinus passage is left widened and the sinus is free of built-up pressure. This will restore your normal sinus functions.
It is worth noting that neither BSP nor surgery cures sinusitis. How long your sinuses stay open depends on the extent of your sinus disease or other factors. Treatment with drugs will still be needed, but symptoms are significantly reduced. Before and after surgery, sinusitis should be managed by treating any allergies that might be present and, in some cases, treating the patient for acid reflux. It is unlikely that you would require repeat procedures, but your ENT specialist may recommend that the procedure be repeated in the future.
Most patients return to their regular activities within a day or two after BSP. Your ENT specialist will give you instructions on what to do for the week following your sinuplasty. You'll be prescribed an antibiotic to discourage an infection and you may be prescribed a pain reliever, although BSP rarely causes serious pain. You'll also be prescribed a saline solution to rinse your nasal passages for three to seven days after the procedure. This will keep your sinuses lubricated and promote healing.
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