Balloon Sinuplasty: Cutting-Edge Sinus Surgery with No Cutting

For as long as Sarah Compton can remember, she's fought a losing battle with her sinuses. Chronic infections, numerous rounds of antibiotics and breathing through one nostril were an unfortunate part of life for the 30-year-old schoolteacher from Tinley Park. "I've always been kind of miserable because of it," she explains.

But even though her clogged sinuses made her feel foggy much of the time, Sarah was crystal clear about one thing: Sinus surgery was absolutely out of the question.

"I had heard horror stories from other people who had sinus surgery," she said. "I hated the thought of having packing in my nose."

Last summer, Sarah's sinus symptoms worsened. Dizziness and ear pain made her feel more uncomfortable than ever. "I just wasn't feeling right," she remembers. "I felt dizzy and unstable. I'm an active person, but I spent most of last summer in the house."

Sarah's doctor referred her to Sherry Fishkin, M.D., board-certified otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at Ingalls.

A CAT scan revealed a fluid build-up and a cyst in her sinuses. Initially, Dr. Fishkin treated Sarah with antibiotics and steroids to clear up the infection and reduce the painful swelling in her sinuses. They offered some relief, but it was short-lived. Sarah knew she was running out of options.

Then Dr. Fishkin suggested a breakthrough, minimally invasive technique called balloon sinuplasty. The procedure uses a small catheter and balloon to quickly and effectively open and expand blocked sinuses—much like balloon angioplasty does for blocked arteries of the heart.

There is no cutting involved, and more importantly for Sarah, no packing of the nose.

In most cases, sinuplasty can be done without removing tissue or bone. It works by widening or expanding the bones that comprise the sinus openings. Moving the bones aside remodels the sinus cavity, creating larger openings that offer less discomfort, a faster recovery and more permanent relief. In fact, many patients experience dramatic improvement immediately and are able to return to normal activities within a day or two. Sinuplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure.

"Patients usually feel a decrease in pain and pressure right away," Dr. Fishkin added. "In most cases, they are pain-free, breathing well and ready for normal activity within a couple of days."

Sinuplasty means no incision, no mechanical debriding of tissue or bone, little or no bleeding, and a success rate that exceeds 90 percent. "It's pretty amazing technology," she adds.

"Patients usually feel a decrease in pain and pressure right away," Dr. Fishkin added. "In most cases, they are pain-free, breathing well and ready for normal activity within a couple of days."

"The most amazing thing is that I've been able to breathe through both nostrils," she said. "That was the most noticeable: how much air I was really getting in for the first time."

While Sarah spent most of her 2012 summer break indoors, she eagerly resumed swimming, walking her dog and traveling in the summer of 2013. She continues to take allergy medication to combat seasonal symptoms, and never leaves home without her nasal saline spray, which helps to keep her sinuses moist.

"I'm so glad I had this done," she concluded. "I went into this process completely anti-surgery. Dr. Fishkin was wonderful; she tried all the other options first. But this choice was the best for me."

For more information about balloon sinuplasty or for a referral to an otolaryngologist, call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273), or go online to make an appointment yourself at Ingalls.org/InQuicker.

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