Austin -- Thirty-five million Americans suffer from chronic sinus problems. Until now they have only had the options of antibiotics and decongestants, as well as surgery that required cutting, general anesthesia and sometimes a painful week long recovery. Now doctors say there is a new, minimally invasive sinus balloon treatment that could eliminate just about all of those other options.
A clogged sinus cavity can result in a sinus infection. If you don't think it's a big deal you haven't talked to chronic sinusitis sufferers.
"It's debilitating really because it's right in your face," said Nanette Sanchez, a Pflugerville resident who has suffered from chronic sinusitis for about 5-years. "It prevents you from being on the computer and just doing your everyday tasks, because your face just hurts so much. I think it is very comparable to people who have migraines. Only it is in your face."
"The sinuses that run above your teeth," said Kathi Cushing, an Austin resident who has suffered from Sinusitis for nearly 6-years. "It can feel like you've got tooth pain in five teeth. There's ear pain -- the pressure in there. You feel disoriented actually."
Until now, if Cushing and Sanchez wanted a surgical option for their sinusitis problem it required general anesthesia.
"What's new now is we've been able to transition this with new technology to be able to do it in an office setting with no general anesthesia," said Daniel Slaughter, M.D. , Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon. "The patients can drive themselves to the office. They can drive themselves home and go to dinner that night."
The new technology is called the Balloon Sinus Dilation Express from Entellus Medical. It's a small, narrow tipped instrument that is placed right where the sinuses drain. And as the name implies, a balloon is placed right next to it and inflated. The clogged tract is now opened.
"Because the tip is malleable and soft you can angle it," said Slaughter. "Whatever angle is necessary for every, individual sinus cavity that you are opening and even the variability from patient to patient."
The balloon expands to about six millimeters. So patients who may have had as little as a half a millimeter of drainage, feel immediate relief right after the 30 minute procedure. We were there when Cushing had it done.
"I can breathe," said Cushing. "I can take a nice deep breath. I had problems breathing before, so it's great. It was an easy procedure -- no pain -- just pressure in the face. It's just like going to the dentist. A little numbness. Yeah. I'm ready to go."
Sanchez agrees. She had the procedure done six weeks ago and says she feels so much better. Sanchez also wants to stress that patients who may be suffering from the same symptoms get a CT-scan because she say X-rays did not reveal her sinusitis conditions.
The procedure costs about $2,000. Since it now can be done during a doctor's office visit, Slaughter says it's usually covered in a patient's co-pay -- meaning little out of pocket expense for those with insurance.