Questions and Answers – Getting Sinus Surgery

If you don’t see answers to your questions here, be sure to write them down and ask your doctor.

When is sinus surgery necessary?

Most patients with chronic sinus infections don’t need surgery. Medical treatment and lifestyle changes usually help improve your condition or at least control your symptoms. But if they don’t, surgery may be the best alternative.

Getting surgery is a big decision. Many things have to be considered first. For example: How severe are your symptoms? What does your CT scan show? How is your general health?

You and your doctor will decide if sinus surgery is the best choice for you. If you’re an older adult, or if you have a child that may need sinus surgery, special considerations need to be taken. It’s important to work with your doctor to get the treatment that’s best for you or your family member.

What happens during sinus surgery?

Today, functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is the most common surgical method to treat chronic sinus infections. In a FESS procedure, the surgeon uses a magnifying endoscope through the nostrils to see and remove affected tissue and bone.

In traditional sinus surgery, surgeons cut directly into the outside of the face or mouth to find the problem and remove it, increasing the risk of infection and recovery time. FESS is a more precise, less invasive way to open the sinuses and help restore you to better health.

The three sinus procedures discussed here (as well as others) may be performed using FESS. Which one your ENT doctor uses depends on what’s causing your problem. In general, the goal of sinus surgery is to flush out infected material, open up blocked passages, and keep enough healthy tissue intact so that your nose and sinuses can function normally.

At the end of your sinus surgery, your doctor may also use the innovative Medtronic Hydrodebrider® System. This special device delivers a powered spray to “wash out” your sinuses, helping to remove the bacteria associated with chronic sinus infections.

Once the procedure is finished, temporary nasal packing will be placed in your nose to support the newly opened sinus passages and to absorb excess fluid while your tissues heal. If your doctor uses traditional nasal packing, it will have to be removed by your doctor after surgery, which can be painful. Medtronic offers dissolvable nasal packing that is gradually resorbed by the body and doesn’t require removal.

What happens right after surgery?

After the operation, you’ll be brought out of anesthesia and taken to a recovery room. There, you’ll be observed for a while to make sure there are no complications. If you’re doing well, you’ll be discharged to go home. Make sure you have a friend or family member who can drive you home.

Before you leave, you’ll get instructions about what should happen while your nose and sinuses heal, when to get immediate attention, and when to schedule follow-up appointments. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medicine for a few days.

At the end of your sinus surgery, your doctor may also use the innovative Medtronic Hydrodebrider® System. This special device delivers a powered spray to “wash out” your sinuses, helping to remove the bacteria associated with chronic sinus infections.

How long is recovery time?

Your recovery time depends on your overall health and the kind of sinus surgery you have (ethmoidectomy, maxillary antrostomy, or powered septoplasty with turbinoplasty). Usually, you should plan to be away from work or school for at least several days after surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how best to care for yourself to help speed recovery.

How much pain is there with this surgery?

Every patient tolerates pain differently. Most patients manage sinus surgery pain with oral pain pills. Your doctor can tell you what to expect, based on the type of surgery you have.

Facial swelling or bruising is rare, but the inside of your nose will be swollen and sore for a while. This may make breathing through your nose difficult for about two weeks.

It can be painful when your doctor removes the nasal packing from your nose at a follow-up appointment after surgery. This is because tissue and fluid inside your nose can stick to traditional packing material as the nose heals. Medtronic offers dissolvable nasal packing that helps the inside of your nose heal faster1 and is gradually resorbed by the body, so you don't have to endure the painful removal of traditional nasal packing.


Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 5 Apr 2011

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