Alabama Nasal & Sinus Center
Is balloon sinuplasty for me?
“What’s up with the balloon, doc?” That is a question that Dr. Sillers and I hear several times a week. I have written blog posts about balloon sinuplasty previously, which can be found on the website. So, for the two people who read that blog (thanks mom and dad!) some of this material will be redundant. Today’s post is meant to further explain our position on balloon sinuplasty and answer the question whether or not balloon sinuplasty is right for you.
Balloon sinuplasty is not really a new sinus procedure. However, there is much more public awareness of late, in large part because of advertisements on radio and in print publications. Balloon sinuplasty technology, based on similar balloon technology used to dilate occluded blood vessels, was developed at various centers around the country over a decade ago. Today, there is a significant body of experience and evidence supporting the use of balloon sinus dilation as safe and effective therapy for chronic sinusitis. The touted advantages are that, because there is no removal of tissue, the pain level is less and recovery is faster. Additionally, because of this less invasive technique, the procedure can be performed in the office setting without general anesthetic. Let’s examine some of these claims and see how they may apply to you, the consumer.
Balloon sinuplasty is best understood as a tool that sinus surgeons can use to perform sinus surgery. The invention of the balloon sinus dilator did not change the indications for sinus surgery. If a patient suffers chronic sinus infections and has failed maximal medical therapy, then he or she may be a candidate for sinus surgery and the balloon may be one tool the surgeon chooses to use for that operation. The companies that make these surgical devices like to emphasize the ease of the operation and the speed of recovery and they also emphasize the increase in ability to breathe after the procedure. While it may be true that use of a balloon causes a little less pain than standard ESS techniques, focus only on pain fails to take into consideration the fact that the more significant impact upon pain level is extent of disease, rather than technique used. In other words, use of a balloon or standard techniques on limited disease is likely to result in very little pain. Conversely, operations on patients with extensive disease require more aggressive dissection of tissues, resulting in more pain, whether you use a balloon or not. In fact, if disease is extensive, you are less likely to be able to use a balloon. A study recently published by Dr. Sillers and myself in the Laryngoscope demonstrated that use of a balloon for sinus surgery on a patient with chronic rhinosinusitis with polyps (i.e. more severe inflammatory disease) provides no significant advantage over standard approaches to endoscopic sinus surgery.
So, the question remains, is the balloon for me? The answer is, maybe. It is certainly worth your time to have an evaluation with a qualified otolaryngologist to determine if you are a candidate for surgery and if the balloon is right for your case. It may be that your problems can be easily corrected by simple sinus dilation with the balloon. You may have no sinus disease at all and need a nasal surgery to open the nasal passage to allow better air flow. Your evaluation should include a careful history, which documents your symptoms in detail and the medical therapies, which have been utilized. In addition, you should have a thorough head and neck physical exam, which should include nasal endoscopy and may include a sinus CT. Putting all the information together and discussing the various options with your surgeon, you should be able to come to a good decision together regarding how best to treat your sinus issues. If we can answer any questions or be of further assistance, please call 205-980-2091.