What Is Balloon Sinus Dilation? And How Does It Treat Chronic Sinusitis?


If you are living with chronic allergies, sinusitis or breathing problems, you are definitely not alone! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as many as 26.9 million people, or about 11 percent of the adult population, are living with chronic sinusitis alone!

Sadly, so many patients fail to respond well to antibiotics and steroids but don’t want to go through the type of invasive surgery, with its known discomforts and extended downtime, that has been used to treat chronic sinus issues in past decades. If you are living with chronic sinus issues and feel like that is your only choice, it is important to know there is another option available to you!

The procedure is called “balloon sinus dilation.” This is a newer, cutting edge medical procedure that is minimally invasive and comes with minimal post-procedural discomfort and recovery time. In this article, learn about balloon sinus dilation, including how many millimeters the procedure can widen your sinus canals to restore your health.

What Is Balloon Sinus Dilation?

As the name suggests, balloon sinus dilation uses a very small balloon attached to the end of a catheter (the same type of catheter that is often used to perform heart surgery!) and guided by a tiny camera called an endoscope.

Dr. Rubinstein inserts this thin catheter-attached-balloon into the affected nasal cavity. Using the endoscope to guide the catheter to the area of blockage, he then inflates the balloon to dilate (widen) the sinus canals. This permits drainage of any blockage (using a simple and safe saline solution) without the need to use general anesthetic (if desired) or perform invasive cutting of bone or membranes.

How Many Millimeters Can the Procedure Widen Sinus Canals?

This is a common patient question! For patients who have experienced chronic sinusitis, allergies or ongoing blockage related to respiratory issues, there is the anxiety that a balloon sinus dilation won’t be sufficient to fix the problem!

But the research shows that this procedure will completely correct the respiratory issues for at least 95 percent of patients.

The precise degree of widening that is required to flush out and improve drainage for the sinus cavities can vary from one patient to the next. What is important to know is that the widening will be appropriate to each patient’s unique needs and situation. The actual amount of widening is less important than the precise angle where the sinus cavity is widened, which is a knowledge that comes with extensive training and expertise in the procedure.

When the balloon catheter is inserted, Dr. Rubinstein will push a button to inflate the balloon. The action of inflation will widen the affected sinus canal and promote tiny fractures in the surrounding bone.

As these fractures mend, they will support the sinus canal reshaping, ensuring the widening effect is permanent. This is one reason why so many patients who have failed to respond well even to the more invasive sinus surgery procedure make lasting improvements following a balloon sinuplasty.

How to Know You May Be a Candidate for Balloon Sinus Dilation

Balloon sinus dilation, also called balloon sinuplasty, is a procedure that was literally developed based on a similar heart procedure called an angioplasty. Balloon sinus dilation is considered to be a minimally invasive procedure that can, if desired, be performed in an outpatient setting with local anesthetic.

There is minimal downtime, although there is a recommendation to refrain from heavy lifting or nose blowing for a period of time until the interior structures have fully healed.

If you are in good health in all other ways, are not currently pregnant or breastfeeding (where use of anesthetic may be a concern), are not currently at the beginning of a major weight loss program and are not currently recovering from any other major procedure, there is a good likelihood you may be a good candidate for the balloon sinus dilation procedure.

How to Prepare for a Balloon Sinus Dilation

The first step towards preparing for a balloon sinus dilation is to schedule your individual consultation with Dr. Rubinstein. During this one-to-one consultation, Dr. Rubinstein will do an examination of your face and sinus areas, take a medical history and discuss your symptoms and goals.

You can learn about the procedure and how to prepare, ask your questions and discuss the best date to plan your procedure. You can also talk about pros and cons of local versus general anesthetic for your procedure. Dr. Rubinstein will give you instructions for post-operative recovery so you know what to expect. In general, any activity restriction will be minimal and limited to the first week following your procedure.

Once you have had your consultation and it is clear you are a good candidate to have this procedure, you can make arrangements to schedule your procedure date with Dr. Rubinstein.

As of September 2014, the American Academy of Otolaryngology issued an official statement encouraging all insurers to cover the procedure, citing its high degree of effectiveness for treating chronic allergies and chronic rhinosinusitis.

For this reason, many insurers now cover the balloon sinus dilation procedure, which is a less invasive, less costly and highly effective alternative to more invasive traditional sinus surgery.

Dr. Ran Y. Rubinstein, founder and medical director of Hudson Valley Sinus Center, received his training at the prestigious Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Medicine in Florida and the University of South Florida. He is double board certified to practice as a facial and reconstructive plastic surgeon and as an ENT (ear nose throat) surgeon specializing in nasal surgeries and treatments for sinus disorders in Hudson Valley, New York.



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