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New Procedure for Chronic Sinus Infections

Oceanside, N.Y. — Using technologies similar to those that interventional cardiologists at South Nassau Communities Hospital use to clear blocked arteries and prevent life-threatening heart-attacks, Louis Rosner, MD, Director of South Nassau’s Division of ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat or Otolaryngology), is using a new minimally-invasive surgery called “balloon sinuplasty” to bring immediate relief to sufferers of chronic sinusitis.

Sinusitis is an inflammation or infection of the air-filled cavities surrounding the nose and eyes. It can cause swelling and facial pain, debilitating headaches and nasal congestion with discharge. Sinusitis affects 37 million people each year, making it one of the most common health problems in the U.S. It affects quality of life and accounts for over $8 billion in annual healthcare expenditures. Patients are treated with antibiotics, decongestants or steroid-containing nasal sprays, but about 25% of them do not respond to these treatments. More than 350,000 Americans undergo surgery each year for treatment of this problem.

For those sufferers requiring sinus surgery, balloon sinuplasty offers a new, less invasive alternative to conventional sinus surgery. It is performed by threading a small, flexible balloon catheter into the blocked sinus passageway and inflating it in order to restructure and widen the sinus passageway, thus restoring normal sinus drainage and function.

“Similar to coronary balloon angioplasty, when the sinus balloon is inflated, it gently restructures and widens the walls of the sinus passageway while maintaining the integrity of the its lining,” said Dr. Rosner, who is one of the first doctors in the New York metro area and one of just 500 ENT doctors in the U.S. permitted to perform the procedure.

Balloon sinuplasty is much less intensive and invasive than Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS), the conventional method to clearing a blocked sinus passageway, in which surgeons cut away sinus tissue. The post-operative bleeding caused by the FESS procedure frequently requires the use of uncomfortable nasal packing to stem the bleeding. (Nasal packing is the placement of gauze or cotton into the nasal chambers to control bleeding following surgery to the septum or nasal reconstruction. The packing is usually coated with antibiotics and, sometimes, petrolatum. The end of the nose may be taped to keep the packing in place or to prevent the patient from pulling them out.) In comparison, balloon sinuplasty patients experience only minor post-operative discomfort or bleeding, resulting in a faster recovery following the procedure.

A recently released nine-center study on the effectiveness of balloon sinuplasty showed that the technique was successful in nearly all cases without complications or adverse effects. Referred to as CLEAR (Clinical Evaluation to Confirm Safety and Efficacy of Sinuplasty in the Paranasal Sinuses), the study reported the 24-week results of 109 patients. Ninety-eight percent of the patients reported that they had an open sinus and 0% percent of the patients reported an adverse effect.

"This research confirms that balloon sinuplasty is safe and effective. In fact, patient quality-of-life scores showed a statistically and clinically significant improvement throughout the 24-week study period," said Dr. Rosner.

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