Northwestern Medicine Brings Surgical Sinus Operation into the Doctor's Office

Northwestern Medicine
Ear, Nose, Throat July 29, 2014
Doctors view a patient with sinus problemsChronic sinusitis is a persistent, chronic problem where a person’s nasal and sinus passages become inflamed and swollen, often for months. It affects about 10 percent of the population but for many patients, it is treatable with medication. When medication fails, endoscopic sinus surgery is necessary to ventilate the sinus cavities. In some cases, a less invasive procedure can be performed using a balloon to help drain the blocked nasal passage. 

However there are some patients who need this surgery but don’t want to go under a general anesthesia. For this group, Northwestern Medicine otolaryngologists recently utilized a new variation of the balloon procedure typically only done in an operating room. The procedure involved giving a patient topical anesthesia and then inserting a small balloon into his nasal cavity in the doctor’s office under CT scan image guidance. The first patient at Northwestern Memorial Hospital underwent the procedure on July 8, 2014. He was also one of the first patients in the country to undergo this procedure.

“This new technology is linked to an image guidance system that works very much like a GPS system,” said Robert Kern, MD, chair of otolaryngology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who performed the procedure. “While balloon devices have been around for 8 years or so, adding this tracking system to facilitate balloon insertion into the sinuses has not been done outside of the operating room. It means we’re able to more precisely and accurately navigate a patient’s sinus cavities right in a doctor’s office.”

The first procedure only took about 30 minutes and was done in the Sinus and Allergy Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this procedure is not for everyone so patient selection is critical for success.

“Our first patient was an 85-year-old man who was uncomfortable going under general anesthesia,” said Kern, who is also professor and chairman of otolaryngology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Given the availability of this technology and his preference, we were able to offer him a less invasive yet still very safe option.”

Learn more about the Sinus and Allergy Center of Northwestern University or call (312) 695-8182. 

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