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What Is Balloon Sinuplasty?

During a balloon sinuplasty procedure, a small, specially designed balloon is inserted into the sinuses and gently inflated to widen and open the sinus passages so they can drain. This procedure can be used to treat the 30 million people who live with chronic sinus infections.

Sinuses are enclosed chambers in the skull bones that drain via a small antrum. When these openings swell shut, fluid collects in the sinuses, creating an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to flourish. When sinus infections become chronic, and antibiotics are not helping, your doctor may suggest a balloon sinuplasty, a minimally invasive surgery to drain the sinuses. Using this procedure, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can expand the openings of your sinuses without removing any tissue.

Surgical balloons are used to dilate narrowed blood vessels near the heart, a procedure called angioplasty. Balloon sinuplasty (balloon ostial dilation) uses the same method.

Conditions Treated by Sinuplasty Procedure

Balloon sinuplasty can be used to treat some people with chronic sinusitis, also called chronic rhinosinusitis, as long as it is not because of polyposis. Polyps are small growths that can obstruct sinus drainage. These growths cannot be removed during a balloon sinuplasty.

If you have allergies or a viral infection, the inner lining of the sinuses may become inflamed and swollen. Swelling of the sinus openings limits drainage. The sinuses fill with mucus, causing facial pain and swelling.1 The mucus can become secondarily infected. If sinusitis is left untreated, the infection can spread to nearby tissues. In rare cases, sinusitis can cause an infection of the membranes covering the brain.

Sinusitis and rhinosinusitis refer to inflammation of the sinuses and nasal cavities. Sinusitis is classified based on duration as acute (less than 4 weeks), subacute (4–12 weeks), and chronic (longer than 12 weeks).2

If you have sinus symptoms, contact an on-call doctor to receive an online diagnosis and treatment. Online doctors on the Telegra MD platform are available 24 hours a day to provide help when you need it.

A woman with inflamed sinuses

Comparing Balloon Sinuplasty to Traditional Sinus Surgery

Since it gained Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2005, balloon sinuplasty has grown in popularity in the United States as an option for traditional sinus surgery for people with chronic sinusitis. This is likely due to its lower complication rate, quicker recovery time, and less invasive nature.3

Step-by-Step Balloon Sinuplasty Procedure

Unlike traditional sinus surgery, a balloon sinuplasty procedure can be performed in a same-day surgical ward. Your doctor may schedule this procedure after discussing its risks and benefits and ensuring you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.  

  1. Preparation: Ask about any dietary and medication restrictions before your procedure. Your doctor may prescribe a nasal decongestant and an antibiotic before the procedure.
  2. Pre-op: Before your procedure, you will probably undergo a quick pre-operative physical exam and a consultation with an anesthesiologist, unless you opt for local anesthesia only.
  3. Procedure: During the procedure, your ENT doctor will insert a guide wire through your nose and into your sinuses using an endoscope (a tube with a light that allows instruments to be passed through it). This guide wire is used to position the uninflated balloon. Once the balloon catheter is in place, the balloon is gently inflated to widen the sinus opening and compress the surrounding tissues. This will allow for better sinus drainage. The balloon, endoscope, and guide wire are then removed.
Endoscopic surgery

Candidates for Balloon Sinuplasty          

Balloon sinuplasty is indicated for people with chronic sinusitis that is refractory to medical treatment (antibiotics) and is not due to polyposis. Balloon sinuplasty dilates sinus tissues. It does not remove any tissues. The procedure is typically used to treat chronic sinusitis that involves the frontal, sphenoid, and maxillary sinuses.

People without severe or chronic sinus symptoms or who have the following conditions may not be good candidates for balloon sinuplasty:3,4

  • Polyposis
  • Significant disease in the ethmoid sinuses
  • Widespread fungal sinusitis
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis
  • Connective tissue disorders at an advanced stage
  • Potential malignancies (cancers)
  • Sinus symptoms, such as headache or sleep apnea, without chronic sinusitis
  • Cystic fibrosis

Benefits and Risks of a Balloon Sinuplasty

All surgical procedures have risks and benefits. Discuss these risks and benefits with your surgeon to make an informed decision and determine whether balloon sinuplasty is right for you.

Benefits

Benefits of choosing balloon sinuplasty to treat chronic sinusitis include the following:

  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • Reduced recovery time
  • Lower risk of complications than endoscopic sinus surgery
  • No bone or tissue is removed
  • May be performed using local anesthesia
  • Outpatient procedure
  • Should improve symptoms such as nasal congestion, headache, and facial pain
  • Most people return to normal activities within one to two days

Risks

Balloon sinuplasty has a low overall risk. Documented risks include the following:5

  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Air or gas in the skull
  • Damage to the eye orbit
  • Severe or excessive bleeding
  • Bacterial infection
  • Change in the sense of smell or taste
  • Vision changes
  • Nerve damage
  • Unsuccessful outcome

Recovery and Aftercare                                     

Depending on the type of anesthesia you receive, you will spend some time in the recovery room. You can expect fatigue, congestion, and blood-tinged drainage as you recover.

The procedure is often conducted in your doctor’s office with local anesthesia. In this case, you will be able to go home once the procedure is finished.  

Your doctor will probably prescribe sinus irrigation using saline solution to gently wash away mucus. Ask about any physical or medication restrictions you may have after the procedure.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, your doctor may make the following recommendations:

  • Avoid blowing your nose for a couple of days.
  • Rinse your nose gently with a saline solution.
  • Sleep with the head of your bed elevated to minimize congestion.
  • Avoid strenuous activities for a week after the procedure.

Success Rate and Patient Experience

In a study of over 16,000 patients, 2,851 underwent balloon sinuplasty, 11,955 underwent conventional endoscopic sinus surgery, and 1,234 underwent a combination of the two procedures.4

 Balloon sinuplastyConventional endoscopic sinus surgery
Took place in an office setting87%0.8%
Complication rate5.3%7.4%
Revision rates7.9%16.9%

In another study, patients reported significant improvements in sinus symptoms when surveyed two years after the procedure.6

Health insurance know your benefits

Balloon Sinuplasty Cost        

The cost for a balloon sinuplasty varies greatly depending on where the procedure is performed, your location, and whether general anesthesia is used. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the procedure in part or whole. Expect to pay between $3,000 to $8,000.

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

Diagnosing and treating sinusitis is fast and convenient when you seek an online physician consultation with a doctor on the Telegra MD platform. If you have chronic sinusitis, see if you qualify for balloon sinuplasty by talking with an ENT specialist online.

Telemedicine provides access for more people to receive a personalized evaluation and treatment plan and, frequently, at a much lower cost than an in-person doctor’s visit. After your consultation, your online doctor can transmit an online prescription to your local pharmacy.

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Battisti AS, Modi P, Pangia J. Sinusitis. [Updated 2023 Mar 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470383/

2. Lanza DC, Kennedy DW. Adult rhinosinusitis defined. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;117(3 pt 2):S1-7.

3. Lofgren DH, Shermetaro C. Balloon Sinuplasty. [Updated 2022 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546671/

4.  Cingi C, Bayar Muluk N, Lee JT. Current indications for balloon sinuplasty. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Feb;27(1):7-13. doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000506. PMID: 30507684.

5. Chaaban MR, Rana N, Baillargeon J, Baillargeon G, Resto V, Kuo YF. Outcomes and Complications of Balloon and Conventional Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2018 Sep;32(5):388-396. doi: 10.1177/1945892418782248. Epub 2018 Jun 27. PMID: 29947260.

6. Weiss RL, Church CA, Kuhn FA, Levine HL, Sillers MJ, Vaughan WC. Long-term outcome analysis of balloon catheter sinusotomy: two-year follow-up. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008 Sep;139(3 Suppl 3):S38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2008.06.008. PMID: 18707993.