Balloon sinus dilation is a fairly new technique used by our ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists to treat sinus infections and other disorders. The medical term for the procedure is Balloon Sinuplasty. Many sinusitis patients have found it convenient and safer compared to the traditional surgical option. The main advantages of this technique over sinus surgery include:
- No general anesthesia is used
- No need to take time-off from work
- No marked discomfort
- Minimal pain after the procedure.
- Takes a short time to perform – about 30 minutes for numbing medicine then 10 minutes working time.
- The benefits can last for years after just one dilation
Despite its relatively new entry into the ENT field, balloon sinus dilation has been studied more that sinus surgery which has been around much longer. Sinus surgery is more traumatic and hence has the potential to cause significant bleeding and prolonged recovery.
Sinus balloon dilation is also more patient friendly when compared with Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS). This is another option for treating sinus problems. The recovery period associated with FESS is longer and procedure-related risks are also more than in sinus balloon dilation.
Who can benefit from sinus dilation?
A wide range of patients suffering from sinus related signs and symptoms can be relieved of their problem by this minimally invasive p
rocedure. This includes people suffering from:
- Sinus headaches
- Sinus infections
- Chronic sinusitis
- Nasal blockage
- Nasal congestion
Patients with poorly responding sinus issues despite use of the appropriate antibiotics have benefited from balloon sinus dilation.
How is balloon sinus dilation done?
This is an office procedure. This means you do not need to be taken to an operating room. The main equipment used for visualizing the sinuses and guiding the balloon through it is called a video-endoscope. The technique involves the following steps.
- A local anesthetic is instilled into the nostril about 30-45 minutes before the dilation is commenced
- Tiny balloons are inserted into the nostrils and guided through the sinus openings
- The balloon is inflated for a few seconds
- The balloon is removed
- A mild analgesic tablet such as Tylenol may be given after the procedure to take care of the mild discomfort. There is hardly any pain or discomfort 12 hours after.
The dilated sinuses remain patent for years. Scientific studies up to 7 years after the procedure show distinct advantages of sinus balloon dilation over sinus surgery.
Unfortunately it is not. While it is the treatment of choice for many patients, not all qualify to be treated this way. The 3 main determining factors are: Your sinus problems history, your radiological (such as CT) investigations findings, and Your personal preference
There is a possibility of a relapse as it can happen with any case of chronic sinusitis. This may necessitate more invasive surgical intervention. Many patients with sinus infections also suffer from nasal allergies or a deviated septum (which of course are not treated by the balloon). To reduce the risk of a relapse, we take the following steps: We must effectively treat underlying allergies, treat bacteria found to be present during the procedure, and ensure the septum is not terribly deviated or perhaps work on it along with the sinus procedure.
Glad you asked! There is a whole blog about this here. Basically the worse off your infection, blockage and polyps are, the more likely we are to recommend more aggressive surgery in the operating room.
Yes, all major insurances are covering this procedure now, subject to their restrictions and your out-of-pocket deductibles. Reasonable self-pay rates are also available for a substantial savings over the cost of formal sinus surgery. Medicare and Tricare does cover.
We have to use a moderate amount of local anesthetic to block the pain. It is about like having a dental procedure done. Lots of numbing-up and then a few minutes of working in the nose!
More mild and moderate septal problems, we may perform an incisionless balloon septoplasty together with sinus dilation to help relieve airflow problems along with sinus obstruction. Turbinate reduction (submucosal ablation) is commonly performed along with the balloon procedures in our office.