(WGN) — Difficulty breathing from sinus problems is a common scourge for many people, and options for relief include painful surgeries that often don’t work.
But now there is a simple option that gives patients a chance for relief.
“Allergy medications can be tried and, if appropriate, antibiotics,” said Dr. Ryan Vaughn, otolaryngologist at Exhale Sinus and Facial Pain Center. Nasal sprays and steroids are an option, but Vaughn said even those may not work in some cases.
“When those fail, that’s when we start to wonder if a procedure is something they would be candidates for,” Vaughn said.
The images taken during a CT scan give doctors a clear view of what it will take to clear the sinuses. The images of Carol Temkin, a lifelong allergy sufferer, were grim.
“It’s an indication to us that there’s unhealthy sinus function or sinus congestion,” Vaughn said. “(So) we’re actually going to find this natural sinus opening and enlarge that opening.”
For that, Vaughn turns to technology that’s been used for decades to open clogged arteries to the heart.
“It’s really similar to the analogy of a heart artery and even the technology that we use,” he said. “So many patients become candidates for what’s called ‘balloon sinus dilation’, where we’ll use a balloon just like a heart artery can undergo angioplasty. We will use this same balloon inside the sinus opening. And it will just push the fabric out of the way. Once this is done, we can restore normal drainage. And with something like a dissolvable stent-like propulsion, it will actually prevent the sinus from closing.
Sinus problems reduced Temkin’s chances of seeing his family. Doctors told her she would lose her hearing if she flew on an airplane.
“The chances were great of losing my hearing,” she said. “I thought I had to do this (procedure). I have to try to have a better quality of life.
“I literally cried because my family is the most important thing to me. So, not being able to go visit them in Colorado and Texas, I was like, ‘What am I going to do? ‘ “, she said.
Thinking of his family, Temkin decided to undergo the sinus stent procedure.
“She actually had four stents placed,” Vaughn said. “And so these four stents were strategically placed inside each of the sinuses that had inflammation to keep them open throughout the recovery process.”
“I feel a lot less pressure. I don’t have the sinus headaches I had before the surgery,” Temkin said. “So that part is better. And I just flew out last week to visit my kids in Texas, and I did really well.
“Ninety percent of patients, when they’re treated with an endoscopic sinus procedure, they’re going to be treated effectively for the rest of their lives,” Vaughn said. “Not requiring a sinus revision procedure.”
“I’m so happy I made the decision,” Temkin said.
In most cases, the procedure is covered by insurance. There are some risks since the sinuses are so close to the eyes and brain. That’s why doctors use an image-guided technique to ensure accuracy.