Discharge from the nose or the back of the throat, pounding headaches behind the eyes, nasal irritation, difficulty breathing through the nose, pain or swelling around the eyes and cheekbones and loss of the senses of taste and smell are common complaints made to ENT doctors. They are also classic signs of sinus trouble. Most of the time, these sinus symptoms resolve in a few weeks with conservative treatment, but in some cases, they linger for months or tend to recur with alarming frequency. For many patients, this recurrent sinus condition, called chronic sinusitis, can be controlled with medication and lifestyle management, but what happens when the conservative approach fails?

A decade ago, if you had recurrent sinus issues that you could not control with medication, you had to choose between living with symptoms that significantly impacted your quality of life and having invasive sinus surgery that required the removal of tissue and bone. Today, however, many sinus sufferers have the option of choosing balloon sinuplasty, a minimally invasive procedure used to clear chronically blocked sinus passages.

How Does Balloon Sinuplasty Work?

Using the same basic technique that cardiac surgeons use to clear blocked vessels around the heart without resorting to open heart surgery, ENT doctors use a balloon catheter to widen blocked sinus passages without making a single incision. The doctor performing the procedure simply passes the catheter through one of the nostrils into the blocked sinus passage. Once it is in the sinus, the attached balloon is inflated to widen the passage without significantly damaging its delicate lining. The doctor also flushes the sinus to remove any mucus or pus that has accumulated in the problem area. After the sinus has been opened and cleaned, the balloon is deflated and the catheter withdrawn.

In the majority of patients, the result of balloon sinuplasty is a restoration of appropriate sinus drainage and an improvement in sinus symptoms These results usually last for more than two years following the procedure.

Who Can Benefit From Balloon Sinuplasty?

The best candidates for this procedure are those whose sinus problems are not extremely advanced and do not involve anatomical abnormalities such as large polyps or deviated nasal septa. While some patients with longstanding sinus issues can benefit from balloon sinuplasty, those with very extensive sinus damage often need more intensive procedures to correct their problems.

Balloon sinuplasty is also not for patients with minor sinus problems or those whose symptoms are well controlled with medication. Some common symptoms of patients who might be good candidates for balloon sinuplasty include the following:

  • Recurrent sinus headaches behind the eyes.
  • Chronic nasal irritation and nasal issues, including problems breathing through the nose.
  • Sinus infections that recur and are not responsive to medication.

What Are the Advantages of Balloon Sinuplasty?

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive procedure, so for those who are good candidates, it has a number of important advantages over more traditional sinus surgery. Some of these advantages include the following:

  • Less painful.
  • Less trauma to the area and less post surgical swelling and bruising.
  • Less bleeding.
  • Decreased risk of postoperative infection.
  • Shorter recovery time.
  • Typically does not require nasal packing.
  • Can usually be done as an outpatient office procedure.

If you have chronic sinus problems that cannot be controlled with medication, there is no need to suffer in silence. Our ENT doctors have a number of effective treatment options, including balloon sinuplasty, that can improve your quality of life. He or she will go over your history, your physical examination findings and the results of tests, including imaging studies, to decide the best treatment to meet your needs.