Sinusitis is more commonly a pesky, temporary condition that comes with a common cold rather than a serious concern. Typically, a primary care doctor will be the first person to treat you, and the symptoms will disappear within a few months with the use of some medications and antibiotics. However, there are cases in which sinusitis does not respond to treatment and is thus considered to be chronic. In such cases, a specialist, usually an otolaryngologist or ENT specialist, needs to be sought out. ENT specialists can often offer more effective and in-depth treatments than your primary physician.
Surgery as a Last Resort
Patients who respond to other, non-invasive treatments do not usually need surgery. Like any surgical procedure, sinus surgery presents risks that are not necessary to take if other treatment methods are effective. Before resorting to sinus surgery, any and all medical therapies should first be explored. Of course, this varies on an individual basis, but surgery should always be a last resort. An effective treatment option that should be tried prior to surgery is the balloon sinuplasty.
When Sinus Surgery Is Recommended
In addition to chronic sinusitis even after aggressive treatment, there are several reasons why sinus surgery may be recommended. Nasal or sinus polyps, if present, require surgical removal, as can structural abnormalities of the sinuses or nose. Certain sinus diseases are caused by a fungal infection and necessitate physical removal, as well as infections that spread to the bone. Furthermore, the presence of other conditions, namely HIV and/or cancer, also require a surgical intervention.
Types of Surgery
There are several common procedures for patients with chronic sinusitis. The most widely used is an endoscopic surgery, during which a functional tube (called an endoscope) is used to look directly into the sinuses and nose. During the endoscopy, the surgeon, along with his/her team will remove excess or infected tissues, clean out the sinus pathways, and potentially enlarge the sinus openings to allow for better drainage. A balloon sinusplasty is another surgical procedure that ENT specialists can use to treat sinusitis. In this procedure, a balloon is inserted into the sinuses before inflating it, which widens the openings of the sinuses. Some more complicated cases will require a surgeon to directly open the sinus by making an incision and reconstructing it manually.
Pros and Cons of Sinus Surgery
Like any surgical procedure, there are pros and cons. The most obvious pro is that sinus surgery typically works. While it may take a while to heal, most patients report significant improvement post-operation. Some procedures, like an endoscopy, also come with little to no potential for complications such as pain during recovery. However, patients who opt for surgery bear the responsibility of post-operation sinus care, which is just as important as the surgery itself. Regularly having examinations and cleanings or irrigations afterward is crucial for the success of the procedure. Potential, and fairly common, complications include bleeding and infection. Though serious complications are rare, they do occur in some cases, which is why ENT doctors will only recommend surgery when all other options have failed.
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