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Now, there is new relief for San Diegans who suffer from chronic sinusitis. An evolutionary technology, called balloon sinuplasty, is being performed at Alvarado Hospital that allows the surgeon to use a small, flexible balloon catheter to open sinus passageways and restore quality of life.

"The balloon catheter is placed through a nostril into the blocked sinus passage,” said Brian Weeks, MD, otolaryngologist. "The balloon is then inflated to gently restructure and open the sinus passage, by slowly moving the abnormal bone and tissue. This subsequently allows restoration of normal sinus drainage and function.”

Sinusitis is one of the most common chronic health problems in the U.S., afflicting 37 million Americans each year. Sinusitis significantly impacts an individual’s physical, functional and emotional quality of life.

Until recently, sinusitis patients were limited to two treatment options: medical therapy such as antibiotics and topical nasal steroids or conventional sinus surgery including functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). Medical therapy can help alleviate symptoms for some patients, however, for 20%-25% of sufferers, this alone is not adequate. For these patients, sinus surgery is their next hope in finding relief. FESS is a conventional operation that requires bone and tissue removal in order to open up blocked sinus passageways. With only invasive treatment, more than 600,000 Americans are left living with their sinus condition.

"Balloon sinuplasty technology offers new hope for relief to chronic sufferers, via an innovative minimally invasive platform,” Dr. Weeks said.

Balloon sinus surgery enables physicians to treat sinusitis entirely through the nostrils, and in many cases without tissue or bone removal. This may result in reduced bleeding and post-procedure discomfort for patients.

Effective Treatment

The international, multi-center study, CLEAR, published in the July 2007 issue of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery confirmed earlier clinical validation that the balloon sinuplasty instruments are safe and effective for opening blocked sinuses. The CLEAR study reported 24-week results on 109 patients, which demonstrated:

  • 0% adverse event rate
  • 96.9% successful ostial dilation
  • 98% observed ostial patency rate
  • 81% overall patency rate (17% of ostia indeterminate due to anatomical preservation)
  • Clinically and statistically significant improvement in patient symptoms

Lighting the Way

Balloon sinuplasty just experienced another technological advance. Called the LUMA technique, it involves using a fiberoptic light wire to allow the surgeon to illuminate the sinus. This eliminates the need for radiation exposure, and may eventually allow some of these sinus procedures to be done in the clinic setting. This potentially could represent another significant advance in treating recalcitrant sinus disease.

Alvarado Hospital's Dr. Brian Weeks is the first surgeon in the U.S. to use the new LUMA technique, and is a world expert in balloon sinus surgery.