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Sinusitis is a condition in which the cavities around the nasal passages, or the sinuses, become inflamed and swollen, preventing normal mucus drainage. Mucus accumulates, causing symptoms such as a stuffy nose, swelling around the eyes and face, facial pain and headache. When sinusitis recurs or lasts for more than eight weeks despite medical treatment, it's considered chronic sinusitis. Fortunately, advances in medical technology offer a breath of fresh air to those suffering the discomfort of chronic sinusitis.

Innovations in sinus surgery

If regular medical treatment doesn't offer relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to widen the nasal passages and restore normal drainage. New technology makes this surgery an effective and minimally invasive means of treating chronic sinusitis.

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS)

During FESS, a thin, fiber-optic telescope, or endoscope, is inserted into the nose. Using the endoscope to see and magnify the nasal passages, a doctor can locate and remove obstructive tissue, widening the sinuses to restore normal mucous drainage. Unlike traditional sinus surgery, FESS is minimally invasive and:

• Leaves no external scar.

• Causes minimal discomfort.

• Has a low complication rate.

Image-guided surgery

With many of the same advantages as FESS, image-guided surgery offers the added benefit of being safer for people with unusual sinus anatomy. During most endoscopic sinus surgeries, doctors rely on "landmarks" to orient their instruments within the nasal passages. If the sinus anatomy is atypical, those landmarks may not exist. Image-guided surgery uses computed tomography (CT) scans of the sinuses to provide a map of the nasal passages. With that map and an endoscope, surgeons can precisely maneuver instruments within the nasal passages to pinpoint and relieve obstructions.

Positive results

Recent analysis shows that patients experience significant improvement in sinusitis symptoms after undergoing endoscopic surgery. The journal Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery reports that, following endoscopic sinus surgery, patients experience:

• 59 percent improvement in nasal obstruction.

• 61 percent improvement in facial pain.

• 53 percent improvement in headache.

• 49 percent improvement in smell disturbance.

• 47 percent improvement in postnasal discharge.

Balloon sinuplasty

Another option for patients suffering from chronic sinusitis may be balloon sinuplasty. Using an endoscope for guidance, a doctor inserts a balloon catheter into the nasal passages. By gently inflating the balloon, the doctor can restructure and widen the nasal passages without cutting away any nasal tissue. Benefits of balloon sinuplasty include:

• Minimal bleeding.

• Quick recovery.

• Less discomfort.

• Low risk.

• Effective reduction of sinusitis symptoms.

Dr. James Mat Weekly is an otolaryngologist with Columbus Otolaryngology Clinic.

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