Sinus infections and chronic inflammation of the sinuses affect millions of individuals worldwide. Known as sinusitis, this condition occurs when the lining of the sinus swell to the point that it causes pain, headaches, drainage, congestion and even a diminished sense of smell. It can occur as an acute infection intermittently or chronically debilitate individuals for years.
For many sinusitis sufferers, a functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is often recommended as a means to reduce chronic symptoms of sinusitis. Surgery alone is not always a cure, but FESS can dramatically reduce the symptoms and improve one’s health, overall functionality, and quality of life.
What is Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery?
Developed in Austria around the 1970s, functional endoscopic sinus surgery requires no incisions and relies on endoscopes, or flexible telescopes, to provide illumination and visualization of the nasal and sinus passageways. Special instruments designed specifically for the purpose of FESS are used alongside the endoscopes to remove debris, polyps or other structures that may be contributing to the symptoms and condition. The goal of FESS is to facilitate drainage of the sinuses so mucus and debris do not obstruct and cause symptoms.
FESS is can be performed under general anesthesia, where you are put into a deep sleep and a machine supports your breathing, or under local anesthesia with sedation, in which you remain sedated and without any awareness of pain, also known as a “twilight state”. The procedure takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on what needs to be accomplished. Rarely, an overnight hospital stay is required.
After the procedure, individuals usually experience nasal congestion and may have a dull ache in the nose and sinuses. If a deviated septum was repaired at the same time as the FESS, splints may be used; those typically remain in the nose for about a week. Any splints will be removed typically during the first follow-up clinic visit.
The techniques of FESS provide long-lasting relief from symptoms for the majority of chronic sinusitis sufferers. However, unless the root cause of your sinus conditions is fully addressed, symptoms of sinusitis can recur and slowly worsen again over time. FESS may be required in the future and to restore full functionality once again. Salt-water nasal spray, such as Ocean, Ayr, Salinex, etc., are recommended after surgery to keep the mucous linings of the nose moist and aid in healing.