Frequently Asked Questions

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis, like other conditions ending in “-itis,” is an inflammatory condition. In this case, the inflammation occurs in the tissue lining the sinuses, which are hollow, air-filled spaces behind the facial bones. There are four sets of sinuses: behind the cheekbones, behind the forehead, on either side of the nose, and directly behind the nose.

The sinuses are coated with a thin layer of mucus. This mucus serves to trap foreign particles that are breathed in with the air, such as pollen, bacteria, and dust. Tiny hair-like projections called cilia constantly sweep the mucus and – anything trapped in it – out of the sinuses and toward the back of the throat, where it is swallowed and ends up in the stomach. It’s a built-in cleaning routine intended to keep the respiratory system free of harmful substances and foreign invaders.

Normally, any bacteria, viruses, or fungal spores are swept out of the sinuses before they can do any damage. But when the sinus tissues swell, the cleaning system is disrupted and the cilia are unable to do their job. Sometimes the openings of the sinuses become blocked. Rather than being swept away and disposed of the mucus is trapped in the sinuses, where the warm, damp conditions allow harmful microorganisms to grow and multiply.

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What is the difference between chronic sinusitis and allergies or colds?

The common cold is caused by a virus and typically develops over 2-3 days and lasts 10-14 days in total. Colds can happen during any part of the year, but are uncommon in the warmer months. Cold symptoms usually consist of a cough, stuffy nose or runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat. These symptoms may or may not be accompanied by fatigue and body aches. If symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, fever, headache, or facial pain, or if they last more than two weeks, it’s probably not a cold.

Allergy symptoms are caused by a person coming into contact with a normally harmless substance, but one their body treats as though it were a foreign invader. We call this an allergen. Allergy symptoms generally do not include aches and pains or fever and though they can cause a cough or sore throat, this is unusual. Seasonal allergy symptoms– what is commonly referred to as “hay fever” – primarily consist of eye irritation (itching, watering, and even swelling in some cases) and a stuffy or runny nose, and the symptoms continue as long as contact with the allergen continues.

Sinusitis is often caused by a virus, but may also be the result of a bacterial infection, and it often follows a cold or allergy attack. One of the hallmarks of sinusitis is facial pain or pressure. Because the openings of the sinuses are narrowed or even blocked, the mucus which collects there is unable to drain, causing pressure. Headaches are common with sinusitis, as is yellow or greenish nasal discharge. Sinusitis may also cause fever, bad breath or pain in the upper teeth. Sinusitis can last not just weeks but months – chronic sinusitis is defined as symptoms that last three months or longer.

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What are the common symptoms of sinusitis?

Common symptoms of both acute and chronic sinusitis include: (1)

  • Facial pain
  • Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead
  • Sinus pressure or congestion
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell or taste
  • Sinus Headache
  • Yellow or green mucus from the nose
  • Teeth pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat from nasal discharge
  • Bad breath

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What types of doctors treat chronic sinusitis?

Many types of healthcare practitioners can diagnose and treat sinusitis, and the most appropriate choice depends on the individual situation. A primary care physician or family practice doctor may be suitable in the case of acute sinusitis. Pediatricians, allergists, and even nurse practitioners may prescribe medication for acute sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis, however, may suggest that a specialist is needed. This is most often an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. An ENT can do a more thorough exam than a primary care doctor, and this type of referral is common in cases of chronic sinusitis, especially when there’s reason to suspect nasal polyps or some other condition is blocking the nasal cavity or sinus entrance.

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How is sinusitis treated?

  • The goal of sinusitis treatment is threefold: to reduce inflammation, to keep the nasal passages draining, and to correct the underlying cause of the problem, whether that is a virus, a bacterial infection, or an anatomical problem.Sinusitis treatment usually begins with conservative measures. This may include both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Corticosteroids are often used to reduce inflammation, and may be prescribed as a nasal spray, as an injection, or occasionally in oral form. Antibiotics are necessary if sinusitis is due to a bacterial infection.However, more than half of chronic sinusitis sufferers don’t achieve relief from medication. When this is the case, sinus surgery may be recommended. Conventional sinus surgery removes blockages or enlarges the sinus opening surgically be removing tissue and in some cases bone. Unfortunately, this can result in scarring and many patients may need a second surgical procedure.Balloon sinuplasty is a cutting-edge, minimally-invasive procedure that achieves the same result with less likelihood of scarring.Rather than removing inflamed tissue and bone, a tiny balloon is inserted into the sinus opening and inflated, restructuring the sinus cavity. This results in faster recovery time and fewer complications than traditional surgery.Back to Top

Is Balloon Sinuplasty cleared for use by the FDA?

Balloon Sinuplasty received FDA clearance in 2005. Over 150,000 patients have had the procedure.
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Does Balloon Sinuplasty work?

Clinical research confirms that Balloon Sinuplasty provides long-term relief from sinus symptoms by effectively opening blocked sinus passageways. (3)
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Is the effect of this procedure permanent or might I have to undergo repeated procedures?

How long your sinuses stay open depends on the extent of your sinus disease or other factors. It is unlikely that you would require repeat procedures, but the procedure may be repeated if your surgeon deems it necessary.
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How many people have had the Balloon Sinuplasty procedure?

More than 150,000 people around the world have experienced the Balloon Sinuplasty procedure.
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What are the advantages of the Balloon Sinuplasty over traditional sinus surgery?

Balloon Sinuplasty is less invasive than traditional surgery with minimal bleeding and low post-op pain. (4, 6) Most people can get back to normal activities and work quickly.
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How long does symptom relief last after Balloon Sinuplasty?

Results vary by individual. A clinical study of 1,036 patients at multiple institutions reported that sinus symptoms improved in 95% of patients at an average follow-up period of 9 months. (4) In another study, patients reported symptom improvement up to two years after having the procedure. (3)
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Is Balloon Sinuplasty safe?

Yes. Clinical studies have shown that Balloon Sinuplasty is safe, minimally invasive, and significantly improves quality of life. (3)
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What material is the balloon made from?

The balloon is made from a type of plastic that does not contain latex.
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What are the risks associated with Balloon Sinuplasty?

Because Balloon Sinuplasty is less invasive than traditional sinus surgery there is a low complication rate. But there are some associated risks, including tissue and mucosal trauma, infection, or possible optic injury. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits and to determine whether Balloon Sinuplasty is right for you.
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How long does the Balloon Sinuplasty procedure take?

Since the duration of the procedure varies, ask your healthcare provider for the most accurate answer. However, in a study of more than 1,000 patients, the average procedure time in the operating room was 35 minutes to an hour. (4) None of the patients required an overnight stay at the hospital.
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Will I require general anesthesia during Balloon Sinuplasty?

Most patients undergo general anesthesia. Your healthcare provider can best advise you on your anesthesia options.
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How long does it take to recover after Balloon Sinuplasty?

Typically patients go home the same day that they have the procedure. While recovery time will vary from patient to patient, many people can quickly return to normal activities. (5)
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Does Balloon Sinuplasty limit my future sinusitis treatment options?

No. Surgeons may use Balloon Sinuplasty with other medical therapies, and it does not limit future treatment options for patients.
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Is Balloon Sinuplasty right for me?

It is important to talk to your ENT doctor about all of your sinus treatment options and ask what type of sinus therapy is best for you. If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, and sinus medications have not been effective in relieving your symptoms, you may be a candidate for Balloon Sinuplasty.
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Can Balloon Sinuplasty be used in children?

Balloon Sinuplasty is a safe and effective option to relieve chronic sinusitis symptoms in children’s maxillary sinuses.
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How much does Balloon Sinuplasty cost?

Your cost will vary depending on your insurance coverage. Speak with your insurance company about the cost.
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Is Balloon Sinuplasty covered by Medicare?

Yes. Medicare’s sinus surgery insurance coverage includes Balloon Sinuplasty.
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Is Balloon Sinuplasty covered by my insurance carrier?

To be certain of your sinus surgery insurance coverage, contact your insurance provider to find out your specific policy.
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Accessed July 19, 2011

Hamilos, D. Chronic sinusitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000; 106: 213-227; Stankiewicz, J., et al,. Cost Analysis in the Diagnosis of Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Am J Rhinol 2003;17(3): 139-142; Subramanian, H., et al. A Retrospective Analysis of Treatment Outcomes and Time to Relapse after Intensive Medical Treatment for Chronic Sinusitis. Am J Rhinol 2002; 16(6): 303-312; Hessler, J., et al. Clinical outcomes of chronic rhinosinusitis in response to medical therapy: Results of a prospective study. Am J Rhinol 2007; 21(1): 10-18; Lal, D., et al. Efficacy of targeted medical therapy in chronic rhinosinusitis, and predictors of failure. Am J Rhinol Allergy 23, 396-400, 2009.

Weiss, et al. “Long-term outcome analysis of balloon catheter sinusotomy: Two-year follow-up.” Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 2008, Vol. 139, pp. S38-S46.

Levine et al. Multicenter Registry of Balloon Catheter Sinusotomy Outcomes for 1,036 Patients, Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, 2008, Vol. 117, pp. 263-270.

Wynn R, Vaughn W. “Post-Operative Pain After FESS with Balloon Sinuplasty.”AAO, 2006.

Freidman, M. et al. Functional endoscopic dilatation of the sinuses: Patient satisfaction, postoperative pain, and cost. American Journal of Rhinology, March 2008, Vol. 22, pp. 204-209.

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