How a Balloon up the Nose Can Clear Your Stuffy Sinuses and Spare You from Painful Surgery

People suffering from chronic stuffy sinuses can get their problem treated through simple procedures other than surgery. Surgery is painful afterwards, and you’ve got to lay around, waiting to recuperate.

Here’s a new procedure with an interesting approach – a balloon that is inflated inside the nose. It is a 30-minute operation that has received an endorsement from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The procedure is scalpel-free and is as effective as standard surgery. An added benefit is that it is being provided on a walk-in walk-out basis. No stay in the hospital. Perfect!

Before we get into the details, let’s discuss this problem with sinuses.

Sinuses are air-filled spaces above, below and behind the eyes. The sinuses are connected to the nasal cavity through thin passages that are called ostia. The sinuses serve to moisten the air — and they remove bacteria from the air entering the lungs.

Inflammation of the sinuses (called sinusitis) can have multiple causes — colds and flu, pollution and allergies. Sinusitis will often last between a week and ten days. The common symptoms of sinusitis are nasal congestion, loss of smell, and nagging headaches. Chronic sinusitis means the problem lasts three months or longer. Sinusitis can be a life-long problem.

Until now, the only treatment option was functional endoscopic sinus surgery, a procedure that requires general anesthetic. The surgeon cuts away the inflamed tissue and drills though the ostia to open them up.

The recovery from surgery often takes seven to ten days, which may cost you two weeks at work. For many sufferers, this is a major obstacle – so they opt not to have surgery and live with the symptoms instead. Typically they rely on decongestant sprays and nasal steroids to reduce inflammation, drain the sinuses, and to allow trouble free breathing.

For them, surgery was the only option. No longer! Balloon sinuplasty ensures that patients don’t need to go under the knife.

The procedure is carried out with the Xpress multi-sinus dilation system. This device is described as looking like “a small pistol” with a flexible wand at the end.

The wand is gently directed into the nasal passages, then a button is pressed to inflate a small balloon in the sinus to force open the ostia. The balloon creates little tears and fractures that heal with time reducing their elasticity and leaving the ostia open.

Additionally, the Xpress has a built-in LED lighting which eliminates the use of fluoroscopy or continuous X-ray imaging. It makes it suitable for the outpatient setting.

Up to 90 percent of patients get long-lasting relief from the symptoms of sinusitis, which makes this procedure the method of choice. Patients can altogether forget their troubles with chronic sinusitis without the need for invasive surgery.

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Mike Dilkes ENT is based in Central, North, East and South London. Most of our consultations and treatments are carried out either at The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth or The London Independent Hospital. The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth is one of London's biggest and most prestigious private hospitals.

It is in St Johns's Wood, a leafy area of the west end, just north of Harley Street and Regent's Park. The London Independent Hospital is in Stepney Green, hidden away just behind Mile End Road, just to the East of the City of London. Formally The London Jewish Hospital, it is a purpose built modern building with full facilities, beautifully appointed rooms, state of the art laser systems and, in case anything goes wrong (it really shouldn't), a fully covered Consultant 24 hour ward and Intensive Care presence - the only private hospital in London to have this.