Balloon sinuplasty, also known as balloon catheter dilation surgery, is a procedure to clear blocked sinuses. This surgery is relatively new, having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005. It’s also commonly referred to as the “smart sinus” procedure.
Balloon sinuplasty is most often recommended for people with chronic sinusitis, after other treatments for their condition have been ineffective. Balloon sinuplasty is fairly straightforward, and reported complications are minimal. There’s no cutting and no removal of bones or tissue. But balloon sinuplasty is still a type of sinus surgery, and it carries the same kinds of risks that other types of sinus surgery do.
Balloon sinuplasty may be particularly beneficial to patients that have had their sinus problems diagnosed early. For patients with chronic, long-lasting problems, the procedure may be effective for some, though not all, of their sinuses. Your physician will discuss with you whether or not you are a candidate for full or partial treatment using balloon sinuplasty. Typically, patients with the following symptoms may benefit from the procedure:
- Recurrent sinus infections that do not respond to medication
- Headaches around the eyes
- Chronic bad breath and/or foul taste in the mouth
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Chronic nasal problems
Risks and complications
All forms of sinus surgery carry similar risks, and balloon sinuplasty is no exception. The greatest potential complication is intracranial complications. In these cases, the connection between the nose and the brain is affected during the surgery and brain fluid can leak into your nose. This complication doesn’t happen often and is usually fixed before the surgery is even over.
There’s also a chance that the appearance of your nose could change slightly after the surgery. Sometimes the swelling doesn’t subside for several days, or the nose looks different once the swelling goes away.
If you aren’t able to cleanse the area correctly, an infection might develop that requires medical attention. And although most sinus surgery improves your sense of smell, there are times that the surgery actually makes it worse.
Procedure of Balloon Sinuplasty
Balloon sinuplasty is performed in a hospital or in the office of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. A balloon sinuplasty can be performed under local or general anesthesia. You’ll talk to your doctor about the anesthesia plan before the surgery so that you know what to expect.
During the procedure, your doctor will insert a tiny flashlight at the end of a wire into your sinus cavity so that they can see what they’re doing. Next, they’ll insert a very slim and flexible balloon catheter into your sinus passage. The balloon is then slowly inflated to expand the sinus opening.
Your doctor will flush out built-up pus and mucus in the sinus cavity with a saline solution. You’ll feel a decrease in pressure when this happens. While the balloon is in the sinus passage, it gently restructures the bones around your sinuses. Once this process is complete, your doctor will remove the balloon. This leaves the sinus passage widened and the sinus free of built-up pressure.