If typical sinus remedies aren’t working well, your ENT may suggest sinus drainage surgery. Physicians typically suggest sinus surgery when there is an anatomical obstruction to your sinuses, like nasal polyps, cysts, or a deviated septum. There are several different types of sinus surgery, many of which have low risks and high success rates. It’s important to understand the differences between each before deciding what’s best for you.
My surgery went off without a hitch and there were no long-term side-effects. I was able to work from home within a few days, and my long-term total recovery took about 4 weeks. The surgery significantly improved my sinus drainage, but it didn’t solve my problems altogether. Before the surgery, I found sinus rinses didn’t work very well. After the surgery, performing a daily sinus rinse and using an air purifier solved my sinus problems almost entirely. Before considering surgery, I’d recommend trying sinus rinses and getting an air purifier. If these don’t work by themselves, they may work well in conjunction with surgery. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
Sinus Drainage Surgery Types
While there are dozens of specific kinds sinus drainage surgery, they typically fall into three categories:
- Endoscopic Sinus Surgery – Endoscopes are thin, long, flexible tubes that have a light, a video camera, and sometimes small surgical tools. ENT surgeons uses nasal endoscopes in most types sinus drainage surgery. By inserting the endoscope into your nose, your surgeon can reach the nasal canal and sinus cavities directly. Your surgeon can then remove correct whatever is obstructing your sinuses. Common endoscopic sinus surgeries include deviated septum repair and balloon procedures like the one I had (see above).
- Image Guided Surgery - Surgeons sometimes use CT scans and other imaging technologies to perform sinus drainage surgery. Imaging technologies can be used by themselves or together with endoscopy.
- Caldwell Luc Operation - In extreme cases involving the maxillary sinuses, your ENT may recommend the Caldwell Luc Operation. This surgery consists of creating a “window” between bottom the maxillary sinuses and the nose. In order to create this window, surgeons need to go through the upper jaw, which is relatively invasive compared to most other sinus surgeries.
Sinus Surgery Risks
While the amount of risk varies surgery to surgery, all types of sinus drainage surgery typically share the same types of risks. These include:
- Bleeding – Blood loss occurs in every type of surgery, and bleeding is a common symptom after sinus surgery. Your surgeon will work to minimize blood loss during surgery. Ask him or her to explain what constitutes a normal amount of bleeding after surgery.
- Changes to Nasal Breathing and Sense of Smell – There is a small risk of decreased sense of small or changes to breathing. When these occur they are usually mild and temporary.
- Changes in Vision – The sinuses are extremely close to the eyes. In rare cases, injury to the eyes may occur. Usually, the impact to the eyes is minimal and temporary, resulting from swelling near the eyes. In exceedingly rare cases, however, permanent injury may occur.
- Failure to Resolve Symptoms - While most sinus kinds of drainage surgery have a high success rate, they aren’t foolproof. Sometimes a patient will experience little or no improvement after surgery.
Sinus Surgery Recovery
Recovery periods from sinus surgery can range from a few weeks to a couple of months. Your surgeon will likely prescribe antibiotics to fight infection as well as a care regiment that may include sinus rinses. Following your surgeon’s post-op care instructions carefully is critical to ensuring a positive long-term outcome for your sinus drainage surgery.