Simple Procedure Ends Sinus Suffering

Published: Jul. 29, 2014 at 6:18 PM EDT
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Millions of Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, an infection of a sinus cavity that is hard to treat or recurring.  A 20-30 minute procedure done in the doctor's office is ending the suffering with a simple balloon.

Dr. Andrea Williams of Ear, Nose, Throat and Audiology Associates of the Carolina's calls it 'sinus dilation'.  She uses a small hand held device developed by Entellus Medical.  It has a light at the end which helps guide the doctor into the sinus entryway.  "We then inflate the balloon (at the tip) which micro fractures the sinus and remodels the sinus.  It creates an opening that's six times the size of the natural opening," according to Dr. Williams.  Those fractures then heal to the new size allowing the sinuses to properly drain.

Sinusitis occurs when bacteria are trapped in the sinus cavity and infection grows.  This procedure is recommended, according to the doctor, to patients who have more than four bouts with sinusitis a year.

I met William Wahnon who worked for the Port Authority in New York City on 9-11.  He worked at ground zero among the debris for weeks.  His lungs suffered terribly, steel dust and asbestos caused horrible damage.  He's on the waiting list for lung transplant surgery, but while he waits, clogged and infected sinuses made his struggle to breathe even worse.  "I couldn't get air in.  I was on oxygen the oxygen was not going in," Wahnon said.

Dr. Williams performed sinus dilation.  "It didn't hurt.  The next day I was running around, up and about.  I would recommend this to anybody.  I can breathe again," Wahnon told me.

"Sinus surgery has come a long way, originally it was done externally!  We did endoscopic surgery and now a simple balloon is all it takes to dilate the sinuses," Dr. Williams said.  "And patients are quite pleased."

If you ask William Wahnon, it's changed his life, "I can smell the flowers again!  I can breathe!"

If you suffer sinus problems ask your doctor is sinus dilation would help you.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.