What is balloon sinuplasty?
Balloon sinuplasty is a new minimally invasive surgical technique used in the treatment of patients with chronic sinusitis. It involves the use of a fine catheter inserted into the sinuses which is then inflated to high pressure, causing widening of the natural drainage pathways. This allows resolution of the sinus symptoms.
Why should I consider having balloon sinuplasty?
This new technique has been developed specifically for people with sinus problems. If you have had sinus symptoms for some time, it is likely your GP will already have started you on various medical treatments including steroid and/or decongestant nasal sprays, antihistamine tablets, antibiotics and salt water douches. If these prove ineffective or if your symptoms come back after previous treatment, you may be a candidate for balloon sinuplasty.
What are the alternatives to balloon sinuplasty?
The traditional operation used for sinusitis is called FESS (Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery). This involves widening the natural drainage pathways using endoscopes and steel instruments. Alternatively, if you are not keen on surgery, you could have another course of medical therapy, perhaps trying different sprays or tablets that you may not have been given before. However if your symptoms persist or continue to recur, this may be because there is a structural or anatomical blockage of the sinus drainage pathways which can only really be addressed by surgical means.
Balloon Sinuplasty – the operation
Balloon sinuplasty is usually performed with the patient asleep under a general anaesthetic (GA), although in many countries the operation is beginning to be offered under local anaesthetic in the outpatient setting. Under direct vision using endoscopes, a flexible guide wire is inserted into the blocked sinus. A deflated balloon is then passed over the guide wire, and the balloon subsequently inflated to widen the natural opening into the sinus. This procedure is repeated for any other sinuses which are blocked. At the end of the operation, a light dissolvable dressing may be placed into the nose although this is often not necessary.
Is balloon sinuplasty safe?
Balloon sinuplasty has been shown to be extremely safe. In several published studies including one of over 1000 patients, the rate of serious complications has been shown to be less than one third of that associated with conventional sinus surgery (FESS). Unpublished data from the manufacturer of over 250,000 operations also confirms this to be the case.
What to expect after a balloon sinuplasty
Once the operation has finished, you will be moved into the recovery area where you will wake up. There should be little if any discomfort, although you may feel that your nose is slightly congested. You will be able to eat and drink soon after you wake up, and you should then be able to go home on the same day.
As with any form of sinus surgery, it is important to minimise the amount of heavy lifting and/or straining in the first few days after the operation otherwise there will be an increased likelihood of a nose bleed.