Surgery may help relieve chronic sinus infection

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More than three quarters of patients who underwent sinus surgery to combat chronic sinusitis—or persistent sinus infection—reported a significant reduction in pain and improvement in quality of life, according to a new study published in this month’s issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. Researchers followed 302 patients for an average of 18 months after they had minimally invasive surgery to trim away excess tissue that might increase the risk for infection. They found that, 76% reported a significant increase in quality of life and reduction of sinusitis symptoms such as headache, facial pain and throbbing, reports that were confirmed using several clinical measures. What’s more, even the 24% of patients who reported less dramatic results still said that they had some improvement in symptoms and discomfort.

Researchers found that patients who reported more severe and persistent symptoms to begin with were more likely to see significant improvement after the surgery—a procedure that involves inserting a tiny telescope and surgical instruments through the nostril. Researchers say that these latest findings confirm that, for some patients with chronic sinus infections, surgery may be an effective way to improve quality of life, but were also careful to emphasize that surgery should not be the first course of action, but an option for patients in whom medication has failed.

Sinus infections are characterized by symptoms of stuffy nose, headache and sinus pressure that occur when the sinuses—or cavities surrounding nasal passages—become infected and swell. When these symptoms persist for more than two months or come back frequently, the condition is known as chronic sinusitis, or chronic rhinosinusitis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, some 38 million Americans suffers from sinus infection each year, and there are 32 million cases of chronic sinusitis reported annually.