Balloon can put an end to blocked sinuses

25 July 2018

Badly blocked sinuses and the pain they bring can have a big impact on your enjoyment of everyday life.

But there is a procedure that can put an end to the pressure headaches, severe face pain and even the loss of the sense of smell and taste that blocked sinuses can cause.

Balloon sinuplasty is an innovative, minimally invasive procedure that involves unblocking the sinus with a tiny balloon on the end of a thin flexible wire, allowing the sinus to drain and relieving the sinus pressure without damaging delicate membranes.

Consultant ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon Mr Shahram Anari carries out balloon sinuplasty operations at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull, Birmingham. Here he answers questions on what the procedure entails and the benefits it can bring to people suffering with sinus problems.

What are the usual causes of sinus problems?

Sinus problems are caused by nasal inflammation, allergies, infections and structural issues inside the nose.

Is there anything sufferers can do before turning to surgery?

There are several medical treatment options. Depending on the cause, patients can be recommended to undertake allergy avoidance, decongestants, take nasal saline irrigations, nasal steroids, oral steroids, and various antibiotic regimes. Some dietary changes can also be helpful. In acute sinus issues, these are usually totally curative. In chronic sinus issues, medications can permanently or temporarily help up to two thirds of patients.

Is the problem more prevalent in men or women?

It has an equal gender preponderance.

Can it be a seasonal thing – people suffering more if the pollen count is high?

Yes, seasonal allergies can aggravate nasal and sinus issues.

What about age groups – is there a certain age that is more susceptible to sinus problems?

Acute sinus infections can affect any age group however chronic sinus infections are generally less seen in the older age group but our older patients can have a different spectrum of the nasal problems. Chronic sinus issues are relatively uncommon in children.

Before balloon sinuplasty what was the most common form of treatment?

Endoscopic sinus surgery has been a treatment of choice for a couple of decades and uses an endoscope inside the nose and metal dissecting instruments to remove bony and mucosal tissue inside the nose to widen the narrowed pathways of the natural sinus openings in the side wall of the nose. This is still the preferred method in certain cases however balloon sinuplasty is ideal in certain conditions and it is less invasive.

Why, in your opinion, is balloon sinuplasty more effective?

Balloon sinuplasty is more effective in selected cases. Where extensive sinusitis or nasal polyps are present, more extensive surgery is still required. However, with limited sinus obstruction and particularly with the more difficult sinuses to reach, the balloon dilatation procedure results in safe, effective and faster recovery procedure with good symptom relief. If your face feels pressured when flying or diving then balloon sinuplasty may be the answer to your problems. Balloon sinuplasty ‘stretches’ open the natural openings of the sinuses, akin to angioplasty of blocked arteries in the heart, hence healing is much faster, with faster return to work and normal activity. As it does not remove the nasal lining, there is less chance of post-operative scarring closing down the sinus drainage pathway.  

What does surgery entail?

Surgery is usually undertaken under general anaesthesia but can be done under local anaesthesia. A delicate, fine guide wire with a bright light is inserted into the complex bony labyrinth of the sinuses and passed into the sinus cavity. The natural drainage pathway of that sinus is then gently stretched open by inflating a tiny balloon and thereby ‘stretching’ open the pathway. An irrigation catheter is then inserted into the sinus and a washout performed which is like your sinuses going into an automated car wash!

How long will it take?

The procedure takes 30-60mins depending on how many sinuses are involved.

What changes can a patient expect to experience and over what sort of timescale?

Some patients report an immediate resolution of the pressure in their head while waking up in recovery! More often however, symptom resolution (nasal blockage, pressure headaches, thick nasal discharge and poor smell and taste) takes 4-6 weeks to resolve. In some cases, continued medical treatment is still required.

What sort of patient feedback have you received so far?

Patient feedback for this procedure has been excellent. Patients particularly like the fact that there is not much nasal bleeding, crusting and pain in the post-operative period, meaning a faster return to normal activity.

How quickly could I have a consultation, and how much would it cost? 

A: It depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted to see, but we pride ourselves on getting you fast access to diagnosis and you can often get a consultation within 24/48 hours. Initial consultation fees vary by consultant, but around £175 is a reasonable guide.

Q: If I need surgery, how quickly could I have it?

A: We have no waiting lists at Spire Parkway, but again it depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted, but as a guide, and subject to your pre-operation assessment, between one and two weeks.

Q: I don’t have health insurance, can I self-pay? 

A: Yes, you can. Our self-pay team can talk you through this and explain the finance options that are available, should you wish to explore them. Call 0121 704 5530, or click here to submit an enquiry online.

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