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Different Types of Sinus Surgery

April 16, 2019

Chronic sinus issues can disrupt quality of life. Swollen sinuses can reduce the airflow, cause snoring, or sleep apnea. The first line of treatment from an ENT specialist is treating your allergies or prescribing antibiotics. Severe cases that don't respond to this line of therapy aren't at a lost cause sinus surgery allows doctors to operate on the nose and sinus cavities to improve performance and realign the structure. We identify why and what types of surgeries are available to patients.

What is Sinus Surgery?

Sinus surgery is a group of procedures available to ENTs to help patients find relief from recurrent sinus infection or symptoms. Sometimes patients with abnormal growths or structures don't respond well to allergy treatments or antibiotics. Both methods are the first call to action to help patients find relief. In the event that non-surgical treatments don't relieve the problems, sinus surgery allows the doctor to open pathways and improve airflow.

Why Would I Get Sinus Surgery?

Several conditions would require the use of sinus surgery to help alleviate symptoms. The most common would include sinusitis. Sinusitis is the swelling of the passages and sinuses that result in a stuffy nose, pressure in the nose, eyes, and forehead, coughing, nasal drainage and more.

Another common reason for surgery is a nasal polyp. Enlarged polyps or clusters of polyps are swelling of the nasal lining inside the nose. If they expand a person can experience a reduced sense of taste and nasal blockages that could infect the sinuses.

Deviated septums block one side of the nose causing a reduction in air flow. Treatments exist to reduce the swelling of the nasal tissue that could contribute to the deviation, but in some instances when the patient doesn't respond, surgery helps restore balance to airflow.


Images Source: Stanford Healthcare

Types of Sinus Surgery


Septoplasty is an outpatient procedure aimed at correcting issues related to the midline of the nose. The process restructures the partition that divides the nostrils called the septum. The septum is made from both bone and cartilage. Its purpose is to aid in moving the air we breathe into the lungs. Without it, the air could remain in the nose. Either from a congenital disability (the nostril pressing against the birthing cavity at birth) or possibly an injury (a broken nose for example), the septum can obstruct the airflow and significantly disrupt the amount of air inhaled through the nose.


Anyone who suffers from chronic sinusitis has the compounding issue of congestion and a deviated septum. Septoplasty attempts to redirect the alignment and open the air passages back up by restructuring the bone and cartilage.

Turbinate Reduction

The turbinates inside the nose can become swollen and inflamed from infection, irritation, or allergies. Any of these symptoms could cause nasal obstruction and lead to excess production of mucus. Too much mucus and you have congestion. Three turbinates exist inside the nasal passage: the upper, middle, and lower. Their purpose is to humidify, warm, and filter the air we breathe. They are composed of a bony structure surrounded by tissue and a mucus membrane.

Turbinate reduction aims to reduce the size and swelling making it easier to breathe. The procedure often requires the use of radiofrequency. It involves the insertion of a needle-like instrument into the turbinate. The radio frequency is transmitted into the tissue causing "controlled damage." As the nose starts to heal, the turbinate begins to reduce in size. Undergoing turbinate reduction surgery does not affect the size or shape of the nose, and patients shouldn't experience any long-term side-effects.

Functional Rhinoplasty

Two kinds of rhinoplasty exist: cosmetic and functional. Rhinoplasty at its core is a procedure that restructures the bones and cartilage that make up the nose. Functional rhinoplasty is performed by ENT surgeons with the expressed interest of helping the patient remove abnormalities that cause issues with breathing. Everything from the shape of the nostrils to the angle of the nose participates in airflow being directed into the lungs. Obstructions that are treatable with antibiotics, allergy treatments, or other less invasive methods respond well to functional rhinoplasty. During the procedure, the doctor will resculpt bone and cartilage that sometimes result in a change in nose shape. Doctors can operate by working from inside the nose making a small incision or the outside of the nose.

Balloon Sinuplasty

Balloon sinuplasty is a less invasive procedure designed to help patients find relief from chronic sinusitis symptoms. The method is a straightforward application wherein the doctor inserts a flexible balloon catheter into the sinus passage. The process is aided by a tiny wire with a flashlight on the end to help navigation. Once the balloon is appropriately positioned, it's slowly inflated to open up the sinus cavity. The doctor uses a saline solution to help flush out the mucus and pus. Many patients feel an instant relief in pressure once the fluid starts to drain. The gentle pressure of the balloon against the sinus cavity helps to restructure the bones and cartilage. After its removal, the sinuses should feel clearer.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS)

Maybe one of today's most common sinus surgery options, FESS is a procedure that utilizes a magnifying endoscope to both view the sinuses and remove any affected tissue or bone. It's reconstructive to open the connection between the sinuses and nose. The result should produce better drainage, reduce blockages and flush out infected material while maintaining healthy tissue for the nose to operate normally. As the name suggests, the procedure is endoscopic. Your ENT surgeon makes small incisions inside the nose to allow for a small tube with a camera and light at the end (endoscope) to survey the inside of the nasal cavity. FESS is often performed in conjunction with other sinus surgery options like septoplasty.

Middle Tennessee Sinus Surgery Options

Each procedure for sinus surgery comes with minimal risk factors or long-term side-effects. But, surgery is still surgery, and you want to be in the best hands. Working with Board Certified ENT specialists like OAT is one of the most effective ways of ensuring your procedure goes smoothly and achieves the best results. If you suspect issues with your sinuses, contact OAT today to schedule an appointment.


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Topics: Sinus Infection, Sinus Surgery, Sinusitis