Balloon Sinuplasty: A Minimally Invasive Treatment for Sinus Congestion

This blog was originally published in December, 2021.

Chronic sinusitis is a type of inflammation that can cause long-term nasal congestion, sinus pain, post-nasal drip, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Treatments like antibiotics, daily allergy pills, or nasal sprays are enough to relieve symptoms for some people. Others may find less relief and be frustrated by sinus problems that never seem to go away.

Fortunately, a procedure called balloon sinuplasty has shown to be an effective way to treat chronic sinusitis. Balloon Sinuplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that can help people who suffer from more chronic sinusitis.  It can help to relieve symptoms such as stuffy nose, congestion, facial pressure and runny nose.

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What is balloon sinuplasty, and how can it help nasal congestion?

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive treatment which doesn’t require any incisions or tissue removal. Instead, it’s designed to open and drain inflamed sinus passageways by inflating a small balloon. This process helps relieve sinus pressure, nasal congestion, trouble breathing through the nose, nasal discharge, and many other sinusitis symptoms.

Otolaryngologists (ear, nose & throat or ENT doctors) adapted this balloon technique from balloon angioplasty, which uses a balloon to open up blocked arteries.

When compared to other sinus surgeries, balloon procedures have many benefits, including:

  • Faster recovery
  • Fewer side effects and risks of complications
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Shorter procedure time
  • No hospital stays (as they often can be performed in the comfort of your ENT’s office)

Who is a candidate for balloon sinuplasty?

Balloon sinuplasty is usually recommended for patients with chronic sinusitis who have not responded well to other treatments. “Chronic” is defined as sinusitis that lasts for 12 weeks or longer.

Good candidates for this procedure typically include people who:

  • Have chronic sinusitis (long-term inflammation of sinuses)
  • Don’t have other sinus or nasal issues, such as polyps or a deviated septum
  • Have symptoms that haven’t improved with other treatments or medications

Before recommending surgery, your ENT will ask you about your medical history and examine your nose and sinus openings to diagnose the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor will also order and review a CT scan of your sinuses.

Should I get balloon sinuplasty to help my nasal congestion?

Every patient is different.  Your ENT will assess you and advise if you’re eligible for this procedure. If you haven’t tried other non-surgical treatment options, you may be recommended to start with antibiotics (if infection is likely), allergy medication, and/or steroid nasal sprays before moving on to balloon sinuplasty.

And if you’re not a candidate, there are other treatment options your ENT can recommend to relieve nasal congestion when medication is not enough.

The Balloon Sinuplasty Procedure: What to Expect

If your ENT determines you’re a good candidate for balloon sinuplasty, you’ll be given instructions to follow before the procedure. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications such as blood thinners or steroid nasal sprays. Tell your doctor about everything you take, including herbal supplements.

The Balloon Sinuplasty Procedure for Nasal Congestion

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally-invasive, outpatient procedure. It typically takes around 30 minutes and you’ll be able to go home right after it’s over.

The procedure is generally performed using local anesthesia and preoperative sedatives. If you’re under local anesthesia with oral sedation, the process is usually quite painless, though you may feel some nasal pressure.

During the procedure, your surgeon will insert a tiny wire catheter through your sinus passageways. This wire is used to guide a deflated balloon up into your natural sinus openings. The balloon inflates slowly, which opens up the blocked passage into the sinuses. This allows mucus to drain and the sinus to re-aerate itself (receive airflow). Then, the balloon is deflated and removed.

Safety & Side Effects

Balloon sinuplasty is associated with the same general risks as traditional surgery, but without any potential risks of general anesthesia. This procedure has grown so much in popularity because its success rates are as good as traditional sinus surgery. Balloon sinuplasty is designed to restore function of the natural sinus openings and relieve nasal congestion without aggressive removal of sinus tissue.

There are some minor side effects associated with balloon sinuplasty, including facial pain and swelling, congestion, and bloody sinus drainage. These side effects tend to be mild and fade quickly, although it might take a few weeks for congestion to fade fully.

Your surgeon will talk with you about any potential safety risks and side effects, as well as how to reduce discomfort and promote healing after surgery.

Recovery After Balloon Sinuplasty

You will need to arrange for someone to bring you home after the procedure due to the effects of sedation.

The recovery process is usually quick. You’ll be able to return to daily living within a day or two, but it can take up to a month to feel completely decongested. Most don’t feel a extensive pain after surgery, but over-the-counter pain relievers can help if you do feel discomfort.

Tips for the recovery process:

  • Don’t blow your nose for the first day. Blowing your nose right after the procedure may cause bleeding. If you experience a lot of mucus drainage or dripping, gently blot your nose instead.
  • Avoid high-impact or strenuous physical activity for about a week. You can go back to work or do light exercise (like walking) as soon as 24 hours after the procedure. But, avoid high-impact activities (running, tennis, contact sports, weight lifting, etc.) for one week.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can interfere with the healing process. Your doctor will likely recommend that you stop smoking one month before the procedure, as well as during the recovery period.
  • Follow your ENT’s instructions. Your ENT will give you instructions to follow after the procedure. Be sure to follow them exactly—and don’t be afraid to call if you have questions.

How long does balloon sinuplasty help nasal congestion?

Most patients experience long-term benefits after surgery. One study followed up with patients a year after surgery and found many enjoyed lasting relief from their sinus symptoms. Another study found that only 1.3% of patients required revision surgery after their procedures.

So far, the evidence points to balloon sinuplasty being a long-term fix for many patients with chronic nasal congestion. Since its FDA approval in 2005, balloon sinuplasty has grown in popularity as a treatment for patients with chronic sinus problems that don’t improve with medication.

It’s time to breathe easy!  Say good bye to nasal congestion.

If you’ve been struggling with chronic sinus problems, including nasal congestion, sinus pain, trouble breathing and post-nasal drip, it’s time to talk to an ENT for help.  You may be a candidate for balloon sinuplasty.  If not, there may be other solutions available to reduce your symptoms and help you live a happier, more comfortable life.

Meet Michael Branch, MD, Otolaryngologist (ENT)

Otolaryngology is the medical specialty concerned with the study, diagnosis and treatment of the ear, nose and throat.

Dr. Branch is a board certified otolaryngologist (ENT),  who treats nasal congestion, sinus headaches, head congestion, ear disease and trouble with breathing.  He specializes in performing Balloon Sinuplasty to provide his patients with relief from the symptoms of sinusitis.

To learn more about Dr. Branch’s approach to ear, nose and throat health, request an appointment.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Every patient is different, so talk with your doctor to learn what treatment options are best for you.

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Otolaryngology

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