Surgery for Chronic Sinusitis

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Swedish Otolaryngology

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If your chronic sinusitis can't be reversed or improved with medication, you may be a candidate for surgery. The goals of sinus surgery are the same as those with medications:  to improve ventilation and drainage of the sinuses.

Nasal surgery is done entirely through the nostrils and typically takes less than two hours. The type of procedure varies, depending upon your situation.

Endoscopic sinus surgery removes small portions of bone and mucosal lining around the opening of the sinuses to make the area larger.  This literally gives people more "room to breathe." The various techniques involve inserting a thin, fiber-optic tube into the nose and using micro-telescopes and tiny instruments.

Balloon dilation uses a balloon catheter similar to those used to dilate vessels in the heart. The opening in the sinuses is dilated, but no bone is removed.

What to Expect After Sinus Surgery

Sinus surgeries are out-patient procedures. Because they are done entirely through the nostrils, there is no visible bruising or surgical scar. You can walk into the hospital, have surgery and walk out after recovery, and no one will be able to tell you've just had surgery!

Patients are typically pleased when they realize they can breathe through their nose right after surgery. Most return to work and other activities within three to five days.

Facial pressure is relieved by surgery, and many people also experience:

  • Better sleep
  • Less snoring
  • More enjoyment during physical activities

Post-surgical pain is minimal: About half of patients use pain medications for only the first 24 to 48 hours, and the other half use none at all. Follow-up care includes rinsing with a salt water solution twice a day.

Long-term maintenance is important. While the outcomes are excellent for most patients, those who take good care of themselves after surgery do the best. 

Good post-surgery habits include:

  • Regular irrigating of the nose
  • Aggressive care of any allergies
  • Aggressive care of any upper respiratory infections

About 10 to 15 percent of patients who have sinus surgery may need a follow-up procedure later.  But the vast majority enjoy an improved quality of life for years to come.