FESS vs. Balloon Sinuplasty

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) is a procedure used to open sinus passages, decrease pressure and pain, and restore normal breathing to people suffering from sinusitis. FESS may also be used in the removal of nasal polyps and to treat bacterial, fungal, and seasonal sinus issues.

To perform FESS, your ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor will insert a small telescope (endoscope) into the nasal cavity. Illumination on the end of the endoscope allows your ENT to see clearly inside of your nose and provides sufficient light for the surgical opening of your sinuses.

Tiny surgical tools are used in conjunction with the endoscope to enlarge the sinus openings, allowing for optimal draining. The procedure takes approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours and is performed under general anesthesia.

Recovery from FESS will include some discomfort and swelling, both of which can last for two or more days. Vomiting dark fluids and feeling generally nauseous is common after FESS, but should subside on its own.

Dressing is needed to collect drainage in the first few days following FESS. Your ENT will cover changing these bandages before you are sent home. If nasal packing is necessary, your ENT will provide you with instructions on removing the gauze before you go home as well.

It can take four weeks for full recovery from FESS. During this period, it is best if you avoid strenuous activities, swimming, and anything else that could irritate the nasal passages. Your ENT will instruct you on when to resume normal activities during your follow up visits.

In studies, FESS has shown to have a 91.6% success rate in treating chronic sinus problems.

Balloon Sinuplasty

Balloon sinuplasty is a nonsurgical treatment used to open sinus passages, decrease pressure and pain, and restore normal breathing to people suffering from sinusitis. Your ENT may also suggest balloon sinuplasty for the treatment of rhinitis, post-nasal drip, and general facial pressure.

To perform balloon sinuplasty, your ENT will insert a small, non-latex balloon into the blocked sinus. Once inserted, the balloon is inflated to its optimal size, allowing blockage to drain as your sinus passages widen. A saline solution is then used to fully flush mucus, bacteria, fungus, and infection from the nasal passages before the balloon is deflated and removed.

Balloon sinuplasty takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes and is performed under local anesthesia. Some patients may also be prescribed sedatives prior to balloon sinuplasty. This will be a decision made by your ENT and based on your specific needs.

Recovery from balloon sinuplasty typically takes 24 to 48 hours. Most people are able to resume all normal activities within this time, though some swelling and discomfort may be present for up to one week. OTC medications should be enough to deal with any residual discomfort during this time.

As with FESS, drainage may continue for a few hours following balloon sinuplasty, though the procedure does not typically require post-treatment dressing or nasal packing.

Studies have found balloon sinuplasty to have a 90% success rate in the treatment of chronic sinusitis.

Which Option is Best for You?

Both FESS and balloon sinuplasty enjoy a high success rate, but balloon sinuplasty is much less invasive and often preferable for patients who do not have a long time to recover from surgery.

Because it requires no incisions, surgical risks are eliminated with balloon sinuplasty. And because it is performed under local, as opposed to general anesthesia, risks associated with heavy sedation are also eliminated with balloon sinuplasty.

Fewer risks and a shorter recovery period are two benefits balloon sinus surgery enjoys over FESS. Others include:

· No need for nasal packing or dressing

· No need for sutures

· No risk of scars

· Fewer risks of lasting discomfort

· Reduced swelling

· Reduced risks of postoperative bleeding

While FESS is a safe and effective option for treating chronic sinus issues, it is no longer the least invasive. Your ENT is the most qualified person to determine which option will be best for your specific needs, but when both options are available, balloon sinus surgery may offer some distinct advantages. During your initial consultation for sinus treatment, be sure to explore all options and to make the decision you feel is most suitable for your needs.