Chronic sinusitis is a common condition which occurs when the sinuses become swollen and inflamed for a minimum of twelve weeks despite attempts at treatment. It can be caused by an infection, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is designed to alleviate the symptoms of chronic sinusitis when other treatments have failed. Before undergoing FESS, patients should understand the procedure and the possible complications.
Under the knife: what to expect from FESS
FESS is a minimally invasive procedure involving the use of endoscopes (small telescopic cameras) to examine the nose and sinus cavities. This not only allows the surgeon to diagnose the condition properly but also to perform very precise surgery without causing damage to the surrounding tissue. FESS allows the surgeon to view all four sinus cavities and remove tissue to alleviate the condition. Frequently, this type of surgery is performed on an outpatient basis.
The surgery can be performed under local or general anesthetic. The operation can take anywhere between two and four hours; this will depend on the extent of the surgery that is required. The nose may feel congested for two or three days after surgery, and mild pain can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics. If the surgery also involved septum repair, the patient may require nose splints for up to one week.
Staying informed: FESS risks and complications
FESS does involve some risks and potential complications. These include infection, bleeding, double vision (this usually only lasts for an hour or two after surgery), leakage of brain fluid into the nasal cavity, blindness, and risk of meningitis. Although FESS surgery does provide long-term relief from chronic sinusitis, it only corrects areas that are damaged by the disease. People who have recurrent chronic sinusitis may need to repeat the surgery in the future.
Opting out: alternatives to FESS
People who are looking for a non-invasive alternative to FESS often choose balloon sinuplasty. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into the opening of the sinus and inflated to open up the cavity. This relatively new technique is already showing promise for mild sinus disease. In cases of severe sinus disease, it is sometimes used alongside FESS. The risks are the same but somewhat lower than in FESS. People who suffer from chronic sinusitis for a period of twelve weeks or more may be suitable candidates for FESS. If the disease is not too severe, balloon sinuplasty may be a possible alternative.