Sinus surgery is a procedure that aims to open the pathways of the sinuses and clear blockages. This is an option for people with ongoing and recurrent sinus infections, for people with abnormal sinus structure, or abnormal growths in the sinus.
A doctor will often attempt other treatments and procedures before resorting to surgery. If these don't work, surgery may be carried out.
Sinus surgery can be done with little discomfort. It is a brief procedure that has few complications.
The goal of the surgery is to remove whatever is blocking the drainage pathways of the sinuses. This may include removing:
- thin pieces of bone
- mucous membranes
- nasal polyps
- swollen or damaged tissue
- tumors or growths blocking the nasal or sinus passage
Types of Sinus Surgery
The series of cavities around your nasal passages are called the sinuses. Most people tend to think of the sinus system as the passages behind your nose, but there are also sinus cavities behind your forehead and eyes. Most people have a total of eight sinus cavities.
Sometimes, the sinus system faces problems such as a thickened lining, polyps (growths), or repeated infections. Some people are born with sinuses that aren’t shaped the typical way. All of these issues can cause respiratory difficulty. There are cases where the best treatment for sinus problems is sinus surgery.
Types of sinus surgery include:
- functional endoscopic surgery
- turbinate reduction surgery
- balloon sinuplasty
- sinus ostial dilation surgery
If sinus surgery has been recommended as an option for you, keep reading to find out what to expect.
Risks of Sinus Surgery
The complications that can occur during sinus surgery are mostly rare and include the following:
Bleeding after surgery tends to happen within the first 24 hours. However, it can sometimes occur later, after days or even weeks. If a clot develops within the bony partition between the nasal passages, commonly called the septum, then it must be removed.
The septum attaches to the roof of the nose. This thin layer of bone may be damaged during sinus surgery. However, this is a very rare complication.
Brain fluid can leak into the nose and, in severe cases, can lead to an infection in the lining of the brain such as meningitis. While this issue is extremely rare, it is often identified and repaired while the initial surgery is taking place.
Although eye damage is rare, surgery may cause bleeding or watery eyes.
Damage to the eye or surrounding tissue
As the sinuses are so close to the eye, bleeding can sometimes occur into the eye. This happens when the thin layer of bone that separates the sinus from the eye is damaged. This is rare and, again, is usually spotted and treated while the surgery is taking place.
In extremely rare instances, visual loss and blindness have been reported. There have also been rare reports of damage to the muscles that move the eye, which can lead to temporary or permanent double vision.
Other instances may lead to a change in how the tear ducts work, causing excessive tearing.
Changes to a person's voice
Sinuses affect the resonance of a person's voice. A complication of sinus surgery can sometimes lead to a change in someone's voice.
Loss of smell or taste
After sinus surgery, a person's sense of smell usually improves due to the airflow being restored. However, it can worsen in rare cases depending on the extent of swelling or infection. This is often temporary but can be prolonged.
Dealing with sinus infections is the main reason why sinus surgery is done. A person with sinusitis can develop other infections in this area as a result of surgery.
However, this complication is also possible if a person doesn't undergo surgery for a long-term sinus infection.
Sinus surgery usually improves airflow. However, in rare cases, surgery can worsen this. Small amounts of scar tissue may also build up in the nasal passage that will require another procedure to remove.