Breathing easier

Relief is in sight for people who contend with chronic sinus infections, and it doesn’t involve surgery as was traditionally the option in the past. Instead, a breakthrough sinus treatment known as balloon sinusplasty is now an option available at Trinity Health.

Dr. Robert Thomas, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Trinity Health, said sinusitis is one of the most common medical issues seen and is a huge issue. Most of the infections are acute sinusitis that will clear up with antibiotics, he said, but chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks and their options included a nasal mist or saline rinses done for three months. If the infection didn’t clear up, then sinus surgery would be looked at.

“Sinus surgery is a newer thing done over the last 20 or 30 years,” Thomas noted. With surgery, the doctor would look into the nose and open the nasal passages in the sinuses and chop some of the bones out to provide a clear passage for the fluid to drain out. That type of surgery is painful, though, and requires about a week of recovery, which would discourage a lot of people from getting the surgery done.

With balloon sinusplasty, however, pain and pressure associated with sinus infection can be relieved with a thin catheter passed into the nose with a saline-filled balloon at the end. The sinus is gently dilated and tiny fractures are made in the bone to make a little drainage passageway and the bone is slightly remodeled, which is more effective in the long-term.

“With balloon sinusplasty, we thread a specially designed balloon catheter into the sinus passages and inflate the balloon. The goal is to restore normal sinus drainage without damaging the sinus lining,” Thomas explained. Regular surgery would still be an option if balloon sinusplasty didn’t work, he added, and for some patients who have previously had sinus surgery, they can benefit from this procedure as well.

“It’s not an option for everyone, but it’s a good minimally invasive technique,” Thomas said. It’s also a great option for children, he added.

Balloon sinusplasty can be done in the operating room or in a clinic, Thomas said. Currently, Trinity offers the procedure in the operating room, but Thomas said he will be trained in doing the procedure in his clinic at the end of the month and shortly after that people will be able to have balloon sinusplasty done there.

“Surgery in general is moving toward being as minimally invasive as possible,” Thomas said. “There’s no cutting involved (with balloon sinusplasty), just making whatever is there work the way it should.”

The benefits of balloon sinusplasty include significantly less recovery time, less risk of bleeding, reduced crusting of the nose, no packing in the nose and less discomfort, Thomas said. Recovery time for balloon sinusplasty is about 24 hours, sometimes less, he noted.

“I have done this in a number of patients and have had excellent results,” Thomas said. Patients said the balloon sinusplasty relieved their headaches and helped with the nasal pressure, he added.

The procedure is on an outpatient basis and takes about an hour, Thomas said. It would probably last less than an hour, he added, if done in a clinic, which will be coming in the next couple of months.

“Sinusitis has been and will be a big issue,” Thomas remarked. “When over-the-counter medication isn’t enough and you’re miserable every day, this (balloon sinusplasty) is a great option. We find more people coming in and asking about it because it’s an easy procedure.”

Balloon sinusplasty is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has been an option since 2005, Thomas said. “We’re excited to be able to offer it because it’s the cutting edge of modern medicine.”