There are 26.9 million people diagnosed with sinusitis in the U.S., according to the CDC. Over 37 million people in the U.S. may suffer from sinusitis annually though. If you are one of those people, balloon sinuplasty is a treatment option that can safely and effectively keep your sinus cavity clear and open. It allows you to treat current symptoms and prevent future inflammation and blockage. Here’s everything you need to know about balloon sinuplasty, and if it could work for you. If you’re in Arizona, the team at the Phoenix Sinus Center is available to answer any more of your questions.
What is balloon sinuplasty?
Chronic sinusitis is defined as a sinus infection lasting longer than 12 weeks, or more than four sinus infections in one year.
In both cases, the standard of care is to work with medications first. If the inflammation and pain persist, though, balloon sinuplasty is an excellent option. It does not involve any cutting or removal of bone or tissue. The integrity of the sinus cavity is maintained while it is gently opened and cleared.
Balloon sinuplasty is a procedure that can be performed either in-office or under anesthesia (often in conjunction with other surgical procedures) in a hospital setting. It utilizes a balloon inserted in the sinus cavity to open blocked sinuses before flushing them out.
This procedure can provide long-lasting relief for patients with chronic sinusitis. Even children can benefit from balloon sinuplasty, since it’s a much gentler option than traditional surgery or other invasive (and scary) procedures.
How does balloon sinuplasty work?
The anatomy of the sinus cavity is important when learning about how balloon sinuplasty works. We may take our sinuses for granted, that is until they aren’t functioning properly. The sinus cavity is actually a few separate spaces.
- Frontal sinus: Two on each side of the forehead
- Ethmoid sinus: Between the eyes on either side of the nose
- Sphenoid sinus: Two behind the ethmoid sinuses
- Maxillary sinus: One in each cheek
These four spaces have an opening called an ostium that connects them to the nose.
In good working order, our sinuses determine the timbre of our voices, but their most important job is to moisturize the inside of our nose. This layer of mucus produced by the sinuses protects our nose from dirt, dust, pollutants, and other micro-organisms that can threaten our health. Small hairs called cilia move mucus to the back of the throat where it is swallowed.
However, blocked and inflamed sinuses can fill up with excess fluid. This can not only make breathing challenging but can also lead to headaches and jaw pain. Sinusitis is also related to an increase in the prevalence of sleep apnea, a health condition that can lead to potentially serious complications if left untreated. Chief amongst these are an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Balloon sinuplasty is used most successfully to treat chronic sinusitis, severe rhinosinusitis, or sinus inflammation and blockage in the nose that has not responded to medication or other complementary treatments.
If you haven’t found relief for your sinusitis with traditional methods, talk to your doctor or the team at Phoenix Sinus Center to see if balloon sinuplasty is right for you.
What are balloon sinuplasty success rates?
Balloon sinuplasty may be a relatively new treatment, only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005, but the research is clear. This treatment is overwhelmingly effective for the vast majority of the over one million patients who have had the procedure. It helps relieve blockages in the sinuses and the symptoms that accompany them.
Incredibly, nearly every study in a review of literature spanning from 2007 to 2018 reports positive, long-lasting, and safe outcomes of balloon sinuplasty with low incidence of complications and side effects. In many cases, balloon sinuplasty represents a better alternative than more aggressive conventional sinus surgery.
Consider even more of the following studies.
Successful treatment for children
A 2017 study found that balloon sinuplasty was safe and effective for 94% of children treated, with results lasting up to a year.
Again, this is a great treatment approach as it’s a more gentle alternative for children versus traditional surgery or long-term medication use.
Preserves healthy nasal tissue
A 2016 small-scale study found that all 15 adults in the study who received balloon sinuplasty had no side effects and reported complete relief at three and six months.
The research also showed healthier nasal passages and mucus membranes with preserved and undamaged bone structure.
Researchers in 2013 reported that all patients in their study had dramatic improvement a week after their balloon sinuplasty and were symptom-free a year later. Another group of researchers in 2013 found improved quality of life and more open sinuses on X-ray a full two years after their surgery.
This second group of researchers checked in again in 2015 and confirmed their findings.
Contraindications of balloon sinuplasty
Not all patients will benefit from this procedure, though many do. If there are polyps present in your nasal passages, balloon sinuplasty may be ineffective and could result only in excessively dry nasal passages.
Work with your doctor and take the time to find the cause of your sinus blockage. They’ll be able to treat any underlying conditions first. This may resolve your blocked sinuses without further intervention.
How is balloon sinuplasty done?
The balloon sinuplasty procedure is most often an in-office, out-patient procedure. Your doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb an area of your face to ensure your comfort. If you are concerned or nervous at all before the procedure, talk to your doctor about all of your options for pain relief, including general anesthesia. For most patients, however, this isn’t necessary.
When you’re ready to begin, your doctor positions a catheter (usually guided by a light and a camera) in your sinus cavity. Once the catheter is in place, a small balloon is carefully inserted into the affected sinus cavity. The balloon is inflated to gently open the inflamed walls of the cavity.
This allows your doctor to then flush out excess pus and mucus that is produced due to sinusitis. Once the cavity is completely cleared, the balloon is deflated and gently removed, leaving the sinus cavity open and clear.
The whole balloon sinuplasty procedure takes less than two hours with no hospital stay. This typically includes preparation and post-op cleaning. Most patients report only sinus pressure during the procedure, but no pain or discomfort.
What to expect after balloon sinuplasty
Because the balloon sinuplasty procedure is so simple, many patients are more curious about what to expect after their procedure.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions for the easiest balloon sinuplasty recovery, but here are some general guidelines concerning aftercare and recovery. When they differ, always follow your doctor’s exact directions as they have the best understanding of your unique case.
Balloon sinuplasty aftercare
In the week following your balloon sinuplasty, it is normal to feel groggy or tired. You may also feel tenderness in your sinus cavity. Further, you might experience congestion and bloody drainage following the sinuplasty. This is normal and to be expected with any type of sinus procedure.
Avoid blowing your nose for one or two days after balloon sinuplasty. This can further irritate the tissues and cause more inflammation. Avoid strenuous activity that increases your heart rate or anything that lowers your head below your heart (i.e., any inversions in yoga class) for at least a week after your procedure, or longer if directed to do so by your doctor.
Sleeping or resting with your head and neck elevated can promote drainage and healing. Although pain rarely occurs as a result of this procedure, ask your doctor if an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug can help you with any pain you experience. If you have an active sinus infection at the time of your procedure, you may receive a prescription for antibiotics to get that infection under control as well.
Finally, your doctor will send you home with saline solution to rinse your nasal passages. Some may even prescribe the use of a saline irrigation to rinse and lubricate nasal passages. Generally, you’ll need to do this for three to seven days following the procedure.
Balloon sinuplasty recovery time
Balloon sinuplasty recovery time is brief, with most patients returning home within a few hours and resuming normal activities within a couple of days.
Side effects of balloon sinuplasty
As with all medical procedures, there is a chance for side effects and complications. Common balloon sinuplasty side effects include:
- Bleeding or bloody drainage for up to a week after surgery (but this is usually very mild)
- Nasal, cheek, or forehead tenderness
- Minor swelling in sinus cavity and passages and surrounding facial area (e.g., cheeks, nose, and under the eyes)
It is a myth that balloon sinuplasty causes black eyes or other facial bruising. This is a side effect of traditional sinus surgery or balloon sinuplasty performed in conjunction with cosmetic surgery. Although minor swelling may occur under the eyes, simple balloon sinuplasty does not cause visible bruises or black eyes.
In exceedingly rare cases, serious complications may arise. These can include damage to the structures separating the nasal passages from the brain and loss of the sense of smell and, with it, the sense of taste. Working with a highly-trained doctor with extensive experience performing this procedure can reduce this risk.
Further, any time anesthesia is utilized, even local or topical anesthetic, there is a chance for a severe adverse reaction. It is important to talk to your doctor about any previous complications with anesthesia you had.
Finally, there is a possibility for damage to the structures surrounding the eyes. The ethmoid sinus cavity is right next to the eye socket. A thin layer of bone separates them. If bleeding occurs into the eye socket, complications including loss of vision and even blindness can occur. Accidental damage to the muscles responsible for eye movement can cause temporary or permanent double vision. Any changes to the tear ducts can cause excessive tearing.
But the truth of the matter is this: because the sinus cavities are so closely located to the eyes and all of their attendant structures, there exists the possibility of vision issues even without balloon sinuplasty or other sinus surgery.
If you are experiencing headaches, pain, increased pressure, excessive bleeding, and unresolved congestion, call your doctor. A fever of 101 degrees or higher may also indicate the presence of infection and deserves a check in, too. Infections occur most often when the sinuses are not flushed following the procedure, so take good care of yourself in the weeks after your procedure. If you’re ever unsure, feel free to reach out to your doctor with your questions.
How could balloon sinuplasty help me?
Since FDA approval in 2005, over one million balloon sinuplasty procedures have been performed. Recovery time is fast and easy, and side effects are rare and generally mild.
If you’re suffering from sinusitis symptoms like congestion, facial pain, tenderness, or pressure, balloon sinuplasty can help you breathe easily again. It’s been proven to be a successful procedure for the vast majority of patients.
Further, because the procedure costs less that traditional sinus surgeries, many insurance plans are offering either full or partial coverage of the procedure. The American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), issued a 2014 statement recommending that balloon sinuplasty not be considered an elective surgery and thus be covered as a standard service. This can save you (and your insurance company) thousands of dollars.
If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from chronic sinusitis and want to work towards complete resolution of your symptoms, balloon sinuplasty might just be for you. With our dry climate and potential irritants swirling all around, our team of Phoenix otolaryngologists are ready to help all Phoenix area residents with their sinus needs.
If you are experiencing chronic sinusitis and think you might be a candidate for balloon sinuplasty in Phoenix, give the Phoenix Sinus Center a call. We can help you evaluate all of your options, including balloon sinuplasty.