You may not have heard of it, but one of the most common health issues in the United States may be right under your nose. If you have allergies or a cold that never seems to go away, it may be chronic sinusitis, a bacterial sinus infection that can last for months or recur again and again.
Chronic sinusitis causes persistent nasal drainage or postnasal drip, sore throat, cough, bad breath and severe sinus pain and pressure. Medications are the first treatment of choice for this condition, but for many patients, surgery offers the best chance for long-lasting relief.
“Chronic sinusitis that is not treated properly not only causes bothersome symptoms, it can actually damage the sinus,” says Donna Sharpe, MD, otolaryngologist at Duke Otolaryngology of Durham. “If someone suspects he has chronic sinusitis, he should receive a thorough evaluation by an ear, nose and throat specialist to determine if surgery can help.”
Today, “sinus surgery” typically means minimally invasive procedures that can restore free breathing quickly and painlessly. A new technique called Balloon Sinuplasty™ opens sinus passages in much the same way that a modern heart surgeon removes a blockage from an artery—by gently inflating a balloon inside. During Balloon Sinuplasty, a surgeon threads a small, lighted probe called an endoscope through the narrow sinus openings. Then a balloon is inflated to enlarge the soft membranes and bony openings of the sinuses. Symptoms of sinusitis improve rapidly, and the beneficial effects can last for up to two years.
For patients in need of more intensive treatment, functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is another minimally invasive option. In this procedure, a surgeon uses an endoscope to guide small surgical instruments into the sinuses and remove any diseased tissue or polyps.
“Sinus treatment today is very different than in the past,” Dr. Sharpe says. “With the advancement of medical technology we can restore the natural function and health of the sinuses with less bleeding and quicker healing.”
Sinus surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure at Davis Ambulatory Surgical Center. Visit dukeregional.org/davis to learn more.