Northwestern Medicine

Artist Breathes Freely for the First Time in Years after Balloon Sinuplasty

Lake Forest Hospital April 24, 2013

LAKE FOREST, IL – Like so many Americans, John Hennessey of Round Lake Beach had struggled for years with chronic sinusitis that made everyday living a struggle, particularly when seasonal allergies struck in the spring. As a muralist and artist who sometimes worked with recycled materials, he was exposed to numerous particles that aggravated his sinus problems to the point where he could not breathe at all through his nose, and breathing in general was difficult. Also like many others, Hennessey had resisted surgery and had been advised to exhaust all other options, so he had tried a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications prescribed by allergists to solve his breathing problems. The only medication that succeeded in helping his breathing unfortunately also caused him to gain 41 pounds, a common side effect to the medication. With another spring season of allergies looming, Hennessey had finally had enough and made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Landon Duyka, MD, a Northwestern Medicine otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) performed a balloon sinuplasty and removed Hennessey’s nasal polyps in a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. For the first time he could remember, Hennessey could breathe through his nose and sleep soundly at night.

“I was really fearful of having surgery and tried everything else with no relief,” says Hennessey. “The minute I met Dr. Duyka and saw his passion for this balloon procedure and how it can absolutely change your quality of life, I was convinced.”

Hennessey is one of the 37 million people in the United States who suffers from sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus lining that causes persistent breathing problems, pain, fatigue and headache. Two of the main precursors to sinusitis are respiratory tract infections and allergies, both causing inflammation and swelling of the nasal cavity and blocking the openings of the sinuses, which then allows bacteria to grow in the sinuses and prevents them from draining adequately.

The ailments of sinusitis are considered as debilitating as chronic back pain or congestive heart failure. Traditionally, the only surgical option available was functional endoscopic sinus surgery, or ‘sinus scraping,’ which involved removing small amounts of bone and lining in the sinus cavity to open it wider. In contrast, the balloon sinuplasty procedure uses a small catheter to insert and inflate a tiny balloon just enough to open the sinus passages, similar to how a cardiologist uses a catheter to open blocked arteries.

“Balloon sinuplasty is a preferred method of treating chronic sinusitis for many patients today,” said Duyka. “Because it is less invasive, the recovery time is much quicker and easier on the patient, with less pain and bleeding.”

“In John’s case, his sinusitis had reached the point of prohibiting him from living a healthy daily life,” continued Duyka. “The balloon catheter was used on the sinuses in his cheeks and forehead, and polyps that were blocking passages elsewhere were removed. I’m excited for John because the result of this procedure will be a vastly improved quality of life.”

Despite his earlier trepidation with surgery, Hennessey is thrilled with the outcome of his procedure and credits the surgical staff at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital for creating a relaxed and calm environment for him with his wife by his side before the procedure. Since the procedure he has had no side effects and very little bleeding. Most important—he can breathe freely again.

“My ability to sleep at night has been a 180 degree change in my life,” said Hennessey. “I look forward to the future, knowing I can breathe normally and I won’t have to be on and off medications all the time.”

For the many people who suffer from sinusitis, Duyka recommends understanding the symptoms, which may include facial pain, pressure, congestion or fullness, nasal obstruction or blockage, discolored nasal or post-nasal discharge, loss of smell, headache and fatigue. Duyka recommends seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist if symptoms of sinusitis are experienced for more than two weeks or if they are experienced several times each year. Treatment typically begins with medication, and if that does not improve the sinusitis, surgical options like the balloon sinuplasty are discussed.

Learn more about Northwestern Medicine Ear, Nose and Throat services.

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