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Balloon sinuplasty

Reviewed by Alan Rackley, MD
Balloon sinuplasty

Balloon sinuplasty is a relatively recent development in the treatment of chronic sinusitis and even more recent technological improvements in the procedure mean that this treatment is no longer confined to the operating theatre but can now be done in the doctor’s office with a local anaesthetic which many patients prefer. For patients who have not responded well to medication for their sinus condition for balloon sinuplasty provides a clinically proven option which is safe, effective and quick. The goal of this procedure is to restore normal sinus drainage which will then alleviate the pressure and pain in the face and head which is commonly experienced by patients with the condition – the use of a balloon also helps to reduce the risk of damaging the sinus lining.

Not all patients with chronic sinusitis will qualify for balloon sinuplasty – those with polyps or a deviated septum must be ruled out simply because of their anatomy. There are also those patients who may not cope well with being conscious whilst work is done inside their head! For those patients it is still possible to have this procedure done in the operating theatre.

As the name suggests balloon sinuplasty is not dissimilar to cardiac angioplasty – a small balloon is inserted, via a lighted guide wire and flexible catheter, into the patient’s frontal sinus, which is probably full of mucus and greatly inflamed. In order to help the surgeon locate the balloon correctly he or she will have the patient’s previous scans to hand and the endoscopic image from the procedure will be appearing on a monitor. It is clear to see when the balloon has reached the correct location – the forehead of the patient will begin to glow as the lighted guide wire lights up the hollow sinus cavity. Once the catheter is in place the balloon will be passed along the wire inside the catheter, when it is correctly positioned the surgeon will inflate the balloon which then dilates the sinus opening. The final step in the balloon sinuplasty is removal of the deflated balloon which then causes the sinus to drain.


The patient generally feels an immediate release of pressure and reduction of pain and the procedure is then usually over. The surgeon will usually flush the area with saline in order to ensure that the mucus and pus has all drained away as a final step before discharging the patient.

The patient should be ready for normal everyday life immediately; they should be able to breathe normally as well as being pain free with none of the after effects of the usual more invasive procedure to deal with a chronic sinus condition. When a balloon sinuplasty is carried out there are no incisions to heal or become infected, no mechanical removal of bone or tissue and little or no bleeding.

Many surgeries have become much more accessible as they become less invasive due to improved technology, techniques and working practices – and balloon sinuplasty is no exception. This increased accessibility also means that the procedure is much less expensive for patients and their insurance companies.

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