Anyone who suffers from chronic sinusitis knows the pain can be relentless and debilitating. John DelGaudio, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Emory University School of Medicine, is using a procedure called 'balloon sinuplasty' to treat patients with a particular form of sinusitis, opening another door to relieve the pain with a minimally invasive technique.
According to experts, sinusitis is a common ailment that affects about one out of five women and roughly 16 percent of men each year. Patients with chronic sinusitis suffer from nasal pressure and congestion that recurs for months at a time. It usually begins with a bacterial infection brought on by a cold or allergies. Although the condition is initially treated with antibiotics, in some patients it recurs so frequently, and the sinuses become so blocked, the best option for treatment is to surgically remove the blockage. Doctors currently treat this condition using a minimally invasive procedure called Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS). After the surgeon identifies the affected area with a computed tomographic (CT) scan, an endoscope is then guided to the affected area and the blockage and/or any polyps are surgically removed.
Balloon sinuplasty is a form of endoscopic surgery that is even less invasive than FESS. In balloon sinuplasty, the surgeon threads a catheter with a guidewire into the affected sinus. Once the balloon catheter is inserted into the obstructed cavity, the balloon is inflated, gently moving the paper-thin bone on each side of the cavity until the cavity can drain. Once the bone is moved and the cavity is widened, the balloon is removed, and normal drainage is immediately restored. The patient can go back to normal activities in a short period of time while the bone in the sinus cavity continues to painlessly heal and harden.
"Although this treatment is not recommended for every case," says Dr. DelGaudio, "it is a good alternative for certain kinds of sinus blockages. For some patients it can be used alone. For others with more serious or complicated blockages, it may be used as an adjunct to endoscopic sinus surgery."
Atlanta otolaryngologist James B. Orr, MD, who practices at ENT of Georgia, located in the Medical Office Tower at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, has also been trained to use the balloon catheter.
"Depending on the individual, some people can go to work the next day, and most people won't have to deal with the uncomfortable nasal packing that is necessary with typical sinus surgeries," says Dr. Orr. "I have been very pleased with the results. My patients have had good outcomes with immediate relief from the pain."
"Chronic sinusitis can develop into an even more serious condition if left untreated, says Dr. DelGaudio. "If we can alleviate some of the pain and inconvenience, it is likely that patients will seek treatment sooner instead of suffering for years, or risking further damage."