May 25th, 2017 by Sepehr Oliaei, MD

Balloons are a popular new medical device that have been used in recent years to treat sinus symptoms. They offer a minimally invasive, low downtime method for opening sinuses to allow better drainage and more importantly access for topical drug therapy to the sinuses. Now that we are nearly a decade removed from wide spread adaptation of this technology I wanted to answer some common questions regarding balloon sinuplasty.

1. Does balloon sinuplasty replace regular sinus surgery? 

Short answer is no. Although there are some cases where balloons are used exclusively to treat sinus conditions, it is best to think of a balloon as one of many high tech tools used in endoscopic sinus surgery.

2. Is balloon sinuplasty risk free?

Again no. Although minimally invasive and designed to minimize soft tissue trauma. High pressure dilation can fracture thin bones surround the sinus opening and cause injury to important structures such as the orbit (eye socket) or the skull base. Surgeon familiarity with latest surgical techniques, use of image guidance and balloon technology are the most important factors in preventing injury.

3. Is balloon sinuplasty better in children?

In children, the desire to be minimally disruptive to bony growth plates, puts balloon technology at the forefront of the treatment strategy. I feel that there is potentially an even bigger role in pediatric chronic sinusitis for balloons than there is for adults.

4. Can balloon sinuplasty be done in an office setting under local anesthesia?

It can be. In very select cases. There are limitation in terms of the anatomy and patient tolerance. In my practice that is reserved mostly for patients who have had prior sinus surgery requiring a “touch up”.

5. I have headaches and facial pain but normal sinus CT scan, can balloon sinus surgery help me?

Although this may be advertised by some to be helpful, I suspect it is not much more than a placebo treatment. If you do not have proven sinus disease, balloon is not a magic wand and is likely not going to help much.

6. I have recurrent sinus infections many times yearly, is balloon sinus surgery the answer?

There may be a role for this as an adjunct to medical treatment and traditional functional endoscopic sinus surgery.

7. I have had sinus surgery before, am I still a candidate for balloon sinuplasty?

Potentially yes. Balloons are a good way to dilate previously opened (but subsequently scarred and narrowed) sinus openings. Speak to your ear nose and throat surgeon about the possibilities.

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May 10th, 2017 by Sepehr Oliaei, MD

Chronic sinusitis is a condition in which patients’ sinuses become swollen and inflamed, leading to difficulty breathing, facial pain or headache and loss of smell and taste. The condition is often misdiagnosed as allergies or a “never ending cold” and greatly impacts quality of life.

For patients suffering from long-term nasal congestion and chronic sinusitis, surgery is often a last resort option. Many have already tried over- the-counter nasal decongestants, antihistamines, humidifiers,  saline and steroidal nasal sprays, as well as multiple courses of antibiotics and steroids, with only temporary relief.

The goal of endoscopic surgery is to give patients the access to better combat this chronic debilitating disease. By opening sinus passageways, patient can receive topical medications in form of nasal rinses more readily into the sinuses in order to keep swelling and inflammation under control.

A new treatment, called PROPEL® Sinus Stent, involves a dissolvable, spring-like device inserted during endoscopic sinus surgery. It helps prop open the sinus passage after the surgery and gradually delivers anti-inflammatory medications directly into the sinus lining where it is needed most. This implant gives patients yet another tool for combating sinus disease in the crucial period immediately following endoscopic sinus surgery.

PROPEL helps keep the sinuses open and gives us another tool to reduce the likelihood of nasal polyps and inflammation from recurring, which are common in patients who suffer from chronic sinusitis. The dissolvable stent — which is modeled after drug-releasing cardiac stents — targets the sinuses with a sustained release of medication to help reduce inflammation and scarring during healing. Once the medication has been fully released, it dissolves away.

I have been using this FDA-approved sinus stent since early 2015 and have seen positive results in my patients — particularly those with severe chronic sinusitis associated with nasal polyps.

Have you had any personal experience with nasal polyp disease and/or Propel implants that you would like to share? (note: comments are publicly visible)

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