Quick surgery can ease allergy symptoms
Posted May 8, 2013
Updated May 9, 2013
North Carolina is known for being rough on allergy sufferers, and spring is the worst time of year for many.
There are over-the-counter remedies, and doctors can prescribe stronger options. When those are not enough, many patients end up needing a more radical approach: surgery.
When Lou Ebert moved from the Midwest to North Carolina seven years ago, he noticed the spring growing season wasn't at all like Kansas.
"Almost everything here is something I'm allergic to, from grass to any kind of hardwood tree you could imagine," he said.
He tried over-the-counter medications and professional allergy therapy.
Still, his chronically blocked sinuses left him feeling like he had a permanent cold.
Doctors said there was an additional health risk. "That backup then allows bacteria to grow, and that's when a sinus infection develops," said Dr. John Garside, ear, nose and throat surgeon at Rex Hospitals.
Ebert turned to Garside and his colleague, Dr. Richard Jones, for help. They say in patients like Ebert, they find structural problems in the sinuses that contribute to their misery.
Doctors use sinuplasty, a thin flexible tool with a fluid filled balloon, to open up blocked or narrowed nasal passages.
"After identifying the natural opening, this balloon is inserted into that passageway and then inflated," Jones said.
Newer tools make surgery a safer, more minimally invasive option. Doctors use telescopes and cameras and even some image guidance to focus, Garside said.
Sinuplasty can be done in the doctor's office in less than an hour, with a full day of recovery before a patient can return to normal activity.
A temporary stent or sponge keeps the passageway open until the structures heal. It took a few weeks for Ebert before he felt the full benefits.
He still takes allergy drops, but they are more effective in helping him enjoy the outdoors.
"I feel great," Ebert said. "I'm not congested, and it's been a game changer."