Sinus Surgery: Is It The Only Treatment For Chronic Sinusitis?

A treatment for chronic sinusitis? “Sign us up!” they’re saying. Over 500,000 Americans each year are opting to undergo sinus surgery, also known as FESS, or functional endoscopic sinus surgery. Chronic sinusitis is, as the name denotes, a prolonged infection of the sinuses – the air-filled spaces around the nasal cavity, although someone with sinusitis would hardly call them hollow. Their sinuses are clogged by years of mucus from infection and inflammation left, right, and centre (literally). Sinus surgery is performed, relatively non-invasively, through the nostrils, so as to flush out the infected material and open up the sinus passages that have been blocked for years.

As effective as this surgery is, we aren’t all to go running to the hospital to sign ourselves up at the slightest stuffy nose. There is a certain severity standard that must be met by a candidate before they can get the go-ahead.  Ideally, the candidate is someone who has turned to surgery as a last resort; generally, it is that they have sinusitis that persists even after aggressive medical treatment. Others who should consider the surgery are those who suffer from: sinus disease caused by fungal infection, nasal polyps (growths in the nasal cavity), structural abnormalities of the sinuses, a sinus infection that has spread to the bone, or cancer of the sinus. These cases demand a more drastic treatment because of their more permanent nature.

The procedure itself is fairly uncomplicated. While the patient is under general anesthesia, an endoscope – a thin camera rod with a light at the end – is inserted into their nose so as to provide visual magnification and to help guide specialized instruments into the nasal passage. These instruments are then used to remove any blockage and to allow the sinus to drain. This method is worlds better than the traditional form of sinus surgery; in the past they would make incisions in the face or mouth to access the sinuses. As a result, there is less swelling, bleeding, discomfort, and recovery time. Patients can be in and out on the same day, and are in general very pleased with the results.

There are, however, as with any surgery, potential risks and complications. Most prominently is the failure to resolve the sinusitis – dissatisfying but not life threatening. Patients could leave the operating room in need or further and more aggressive surgery, or in need of an allergy evaluation or of environmental controls to better pinpoint the problem. The surgery could fail to resolve any concurrent respiratory illnesses, sinus headaches, drainage, or a sub-par sense of smell or taste. Sometimes people opt to get sinus surgery in hopes of resolving related problems, and they risk disappointment. The most worrisome, however, is any induced problems that have been known to occur. Such ramifications following the operation include: chronic nasal drainage, excessive dryness of the nose, damage to the eye, damage to the skull or leakage of spinal fluid, permanent numbness of upper teeth or face, and prolonged pain or impaired healing.

As with any procedure, there is a certain margin for failure. In this case, up to 20% of patients don’t respond with a positive post-op outcome. These people continue to live with the disease and are often at a loss for how to remedy it. It is important to understand the procedure and the risks, and to follow the progress of new technologies that are constantly being updated to address the huge clinical need.


Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

About Sinus Surgery

Sinus Surgery (Patient Instructions)

 A sinus sufferer chooses surgery

When You Need Sinus Surgery

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3 Responses to “Sinus Surgery: Is It The Only Treatment For Chronic Sinusitis?”

  1. SinupretSa says:

    So many individuals have gone through countless number of FESS and for some it has proven to make a difference for a while and then in about 6 months or so, it goes back to normal sinus problems. In this case would you say that a Drillout or Obliteration would have to be the next step?

  2. Tereasa Zahler says:

    I am so glad I found your site. I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Yahoo for something else. Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a informative post and an all round enjoyable blog. (I also like the theme/design), I don’t have time to read through it all at the minute, but I have added your website to my favorites, so when I have time I will be back to read more. Please do keep up the awesome job!

  3. admin says:

    Thanks for your feedback Tereasa, I’m glad you found us 🙂

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