Sinusitis is a common condition that affects over 37 million people each year, causing pain, pressure and congestion in the forehead, nose, cheek and eye area. More than 17 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States are affected by sinus problems. These problems can be temporary and develop as the result of a cold, or may be long lasting and exist for months with no relief from the troubling symptoms.
The sinuses are the hollow air spaces behind the bones of the upper face, which can become blocked and inflamed to cause a buildup of mucus. This buildup can cause pain, pressure and fullness along with:
- Difficulty breathing
- Yellow or green mucus discharge
- Teeth pain
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Sore throat
Sinus problems can often affect patients’ quality of life and interfere with regular activities. If you are suffering from sinus problems, it is important to meet with a doctor and discuss your treatment options.
There are several medications available for treating sinusitis and related problems, including antibiotics, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants and saline nasal sprays. While some people can feel relief with the help of these medications, others may still experience their symptoms and have trouble enjoying daily activities.
Since many people do not respond to medication for sinusitis symptoms, a stronger treatment method is sometimes recommended. Sinus surgery is a traditional treatment option that clears blocked sinuses by placing an endoscopic instrument in the nose to examine the area and remove bone and tissue to enlarge it. Unfortunately, this treatment can lead to post-operative pain, bleeding and scarring.
A newer, much less invasive procedure for relieving the symptoms of chronic sinusitis is balloon dilation. This technique uses a thin, flexible balloon catheter that is placed in the nose and gradually inflated to open blocked sinuses. It relieves blockages in the nasal passage by gently restructuring the bones in the nose, promoting drainage and alleviating painful symptoms. It is appropriate for patients whose sinus obstruction is in the frontal, sphenoid or maxillary sinuses.
This procedure offers patients many benefits as an alternative to conventional sinus surgery. Some of these benefits include:
- Minimally invasive – The soft, flexible tube gently opens sinus openings and avoids damaging surrounding tissue or bones
- Safe – Balloon dilation is regarded as a safe and effective procedure with no serious complications
- Faster recovery times – Many patients return to their regular activities within 48 hours
- Reduced bleeding – By not removing tissue or bone during this procedure, bleeding and other surgical side effects are often reduced
The Balloon Sinus Dilation Procedure
Balloon sinus dilation takes place in your doctor’s office. It is generally performed under local anesthesia. The length of the procedure varies depending upon your individual condition. Unlike traditional sinus surgery, no tissue is removed. The technique is similar to balloon angioplasty that is used to open blocked coronary arteries, enabling the surgeon to avoid a bypass. In this situation, the balloon dilation allows the surgeon to preserve all sinus structures and restore the flow of air.
The balloon is simply threaded into the area of the sinuses that has the blockage and inflated to expand the sinus tissue to clear any obstructions and widen the opening. The balloon is then deflated and safely removed. Recovery is fast and involves little discomfort because of the minimally invasive nature of the procedure, with the majority of patients resuming all of their typical daily activities within 48 hours.
Most patients enjoy significant relief from their sinus symptoms after undergoing balloon dilation. Although the length of these results may vary, clinical information reports continued improvement up to two years after surgery.
Balloon dilation is considered a very safe, low risk procedure. However, with all medical procedures, there is a small chance that complications can develop. The potential risks of this treatment include facial pain, loss of vision or double vision, nerve damage that may result in temporary or prolonged numbness, facial bruising or facial swelling. Your doctor can discuss these risks with you prior to having the procedure as well as answering any questions you have about balloon dilation.
Depending on the specifics of your sinus condition, balloon dilation may or may not be the best method of treatment. Consultation with your doctor as well as imaging of your sinuses will help determine if balloon dilation is right for you.