New procedure relieves sinus issues

June 4, 2010 4:53:08 PM PDT
An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sinus infections every year. It's a major source of frustration, aggravation and discomfort for many. But there soon may be relief on the horizon.

Wilma Thomason loves to sing as part of the award winning Houston Horizon Chorus.

But severe sinus problems last year sidelined this 78-year-old grandmother and kept her from standing side-by-side with the women she calls her "sisters."

"Every time I'd get up there and try to sing, I'd just clog up and I felt bad," Thomason said.

So Thomason sought relief with a new surgical technique. It's an endoscopic balloon device which is inserted through the nasal cavity to open up clogged sinuses.

"You use the balloon to open up the structure area and you basically, microfracture a bone to make a bigger doorway," Otolaryngologist Dr. Roy Sheldon Lewis said.

Once in place, the balloon stays there for several weeks in order to release medication directly into the sinuses. Dr. Roy Lewis says the biggest discomfort comes from removing the device through the nose. But he and others have seen few complications.

"It works quick, less painful; there's less bleeding, less scarring, quicker healing," he said. "Patients are getting back to work quicker than they ever did in the past."

These days, Thomason's sinus infections are now almost under control. She's rejoined the chorus and singing the praises of this new treatment option.

"If you've had sinus problems, as long as I had, and nothing else helps, I would definitely think it's the right way to go," Thomason said.

And she should know.

Dr. Lewis says the three year success rate of the MicroFlow Spacer device is about 96 percent. The procedure costs about $3,000 and may be covered by insurance.


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