Traditional sinus surgical procedures require cutting, via a microscopic drill, into the sinuses to remove sinus bone and tissue. A balloon sinuplasty is a procedure that takes the theory of “less is more” to heart. It does not involve cutting, can be done as an in-office procedure, and requires far less recovery time. But is it right for you? Let’s take a look at what balloon sinuplasty is and what indications it has.
What is Balloon Sinuplasty?
Instead of cutting into the sinuses, a balloon sinuplasty involves using a wire to thread a tiny, 5 millimeter balloon into the sinuses to stretch open the natural sinus cavity by cracking open the bone and stretching the tissue. Because the tissue is not torn, nothing needs to heal, and the sinus does not typically close up. The procedure widens the sinus cavity in order to improve airflow and achieve more natural drainage, taking sinuses that aren’t working well and giving them a vehicle for air to get in. Mucus dries because the air can get to it, and the patient will experience less sinus pain and pressure. Balloon sinuplasty is a natural evolution of a surgical procedure with less morbidity than it’s traditional counterpoint.
Indications for Balloon Sinuplasty
If the patient experiences four or more significant sinus infections in a given year, an ENT physician may consider him/her as a viable candidate for a sinus surgery, or an office procedure such as a balloon sinuplasty. A significant sinus infection can last for a month or more. Patients with three significant sinus infections per year for two years in a row also qualify. Finally, patients with a persistent infection lasting three months or more without responding to medical care are also good candidates for the procedure.
While some physicians may recommend this procedure for people experiencing sinus headaches without infections,the data is not there to support that use.
Conditions Not Appropriate for Balloon Sinuplasty
While a balloon sinuplasty can provide a great amount of relief, it is not always the best course of treatment, depending on the cause of a patient’s sinus issues. A patient experiencing the following conditions will likely not find much relief from a balloon sinuplasty because there are structural issues going on with the nose:
- Deviated septum
- Engorged or malformed nasal tissue (turbinates)
- Nasal polyps
- Extreme allergies
- Immune system abnormalities
Talk to an ENT specialist to see if you are a candidate for balloon sinuplasty. He or she might do an endoscopic examination or in-office CT scan to determine what is causing the sinus irritation and recommend the proper treatment.