Me and my operation: The magic tube that helped me breathe again

Taken from: The Daily Mail Online

Around 600,000 Britons suffer from nasal polyps, which can lead to loss of smell, breathing difficulties and severe headaches.

Beverley Rudman, 52, an accountant who lives with her husband Ian near Romford, Essex, underwent a new treatment for them, as she tells DAVID HURST.



My nose caused me suffering for over ten years — I can’t count the number of times I went to the doctor about it. Often, I could barely breathe. I was constantly sniffing and sounded really nasal. I also suffered from headaches and snored, and I used to burn things a lot because I couldn’t smell.

Flavours had to be very strong before I could taste them — my enjoyment of cooking and eating were totally spoiled. The doctors said it was hayfever. They prescribed tablets and told me to try steam inhalations, neither of which made much difference.

A few years ago, a friend said it sounded like I had polyps — tiny swellings in the nose or sinuses, which made breathing difficult. Even though I thought that’s what it was, I didn’t mention it to my GP because I assumed he knew best. If only I had, it would have shortened my misery by years.

I was also concerned about the treatment, which involved putting instruments up your nostrils to cut out the polyps. And in some cases, when the polyps are large, they have to do this through your cheek, which can cause eye and even brain problems.

I decided instead to grin and bear it.

But then last year things got really bad: I was in constant discomfort and my sleep was being ruined by my snoring. If it was polyps, I thought, the operation couldn’t be worse than how I was feeling.

So, in November, my GP referred me to an ENT consultant. He confirmed I did have polyps and gave me special nasal drops to control the inflammation.

When I went back to see him a month later, I already felt better. He explained that the polyps needed to be removed and told me about a new procedure, which was less painful and more efficient than the other one. There was also less of a risk of injury.

This new procedure involved inserting a tiny tube into my sinuses to deliver steroids into the area. These would be slowly released over four weeks, reducing the inflammation and the polyps until they shrank away.

I had the operation in January under general anaesthetic. I thought afterwards I’d be in pain and have black eyes, but there was nothing. I was allowed to eat and drink normally and was discharged that evening.

It took about a fortnight for my taste and sense of smell to return. People have said that I sound less nasal. My breathing is also normal and my snoring has vastly improved.

And I can now enjoy cooking and eating — it’s so wonderful to be able to smell again!


Paul Chatrath is a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, and Spire Roding and Hartswood Hospitals, Essex.

He says… A nasal polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue that forms because of inflammation in the tissue lining the nose or sinuses; the inflammation causes fluid to build up in the tissues, forming small, grape-like swellings. They usually affect both nostrils.

It’s not clear what causes the inflammation, but likely triggers include a bacterial or viral infection or an allergy — conditions such as asthma and hayfever cause sinus inflammation, making it more likely for polyps to form.

Polyps can trigger headaches, double vision, loss of taste and smell, breathing problems and cold-like symptoms.

Diagnosis is with a CT scan. The first line of treatment is a steroid nasal spray, drops or tablets. But if this doesn’t work, a patient will require surgery known as a polypectomy.

Using an endoscope — a thin tube that contains a video camera — we look inside the nose and sinuses to locate the polyps. We then insert small surgical instruments into the nostrils to remove them.

In some cases, small pieces of bone are also removed from the nose to reduce the chances of them returning. There is a 0.5 per cent risk of injury to the eyes or brain with this treatment.

Generally, patients will be able to go home the same day. However, in approximately three out of four people who have surgery, the polyps grow back after an average of four years.

With the new op, if the patient has polyps in their sinuses, this is usually performed in conjunction with another relatively new procedure, balloon sinuplasty, in which the sinus is enlarged by having a tiny balloon inflated inside.
This increased space makes it possible to use the new technique.

First, a tiny tube — or stent — containing steroids is inserted into the sinus. The device has fine pores that allow the steroids to seep into the surrounding tissues over the next few weeks. This reduces the inflammation, which in turn shrinks the polyps.

The operation takes between 45 minutes and an hour, and patients feel better immediately. Beverley’s results have been tremendous — she can smell, taste and breathe properly once again.

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