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One-Hour Procedure Relieves Years of Sinus Problems

September 21, 2018
Emily Drews stands outside

Since having a sinuplasty procedure at Duke, Emily Drews has been better able to enjoy the outdoors.

Frequent, severe sinus infections made Emily Drews miserable for years, especially when pollen triggered her allergies. Then she had a sinuplasty procedure at Duke, and the results were dramatic. Drews now breathes easily, no matter the season.

Debilitating Symptoms

For Drews, 69, sinus problems seemed like a way of life. It would start with an allergic reaction to pollen, and the inflammation (known as sinusitis) would quickly get worse.

“It would invariably become a sinus infection that would last at least a week,” Drews said. That meant weeks of coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose and eyes. “I couldn’t breathe; I had to just stay home. It was debilitating.”

Drews had sinus infections at least four times a year. She took antibiotics each time, and she also tried the full range of over-the-counter sinus rinses and medications. But each time she got over one infection, another one was around the corner.

Duke Expertise Offers Hope

A new avenue opened for Drews when her primary care provider, Kavita Patel, MD, suggested she consider a procedure to improve the drainage from her sinuses. Drews visited David Jang, MD, a Duke ear, nose, and throat specialist, who found her to be a good candidate for a procedure called balloon sinuplasty.

“It’s an option that we do in the office,” Dr. Jang said. “For the right patients, it can bring significant relief.”

Unlike typical sinus surgeries, balloon sinuplasty doesn’t involve cutting bone or tissue in the nose and can usually be done with local anesthesia. The surgeon threads a guide wire into the sinus and then slides a balloon over the guidewire. “We inflate the balloon, and that widens the natural opening of the sinus,” Dr. Jang said.

Drews had the procedure in April 2018.

Taking a Breath

Drews’ relief was immediate. “I had such great results,” she said. “I haven’t had any clogging, and I’ve been able to blow my nose and clear it ever since the procedure.”

That’s the kind of result Dr. Jang likes to see. He emphasizes that balloon sinuplasty isn’t for everyone with sinus problems, and he’s careful to select patients who will do well with the procedure. But for the right patients, it can greatly improve their quality of life. “I’ve followed a few patients long-term, and they’ve done very well and are very happy with the results,” he said.

No ongoing care is required after balloon sinuplasty, and the results are lasting.

As for Drews, she is enjoying her new freedom from debilitating sinus symptoms. “Many plants are blooming in North Carolina, but it doesn’t affect me now,” she said. “I can smell them, and I may sneeze, but that’s it.”