By LORI TUCKER6 News Anchor
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville doctor is using balloons to help his patients breathe easier.
Balloons are already used in angioplasty to open clogged arteries in the heart, but now a local ear, nose and throat specialist is using the device to give patients a different kind of relief.The small device is the key to relief for patients like Karen Harmon, who suffered from blocked sinuses for more than a year. "I would wake up with a headache and I would usually have a headache all day long," she said.Harmon is among the 60% of sinusitis sufferers that studies show don't respond to medication. She didn't want traditional invasive sinus surgery to remove bone and tissue to enlarge the sinus opening. Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Casey Mathison offered her a less traumatic option called balloon sinuplasty. "This is much more comfortable for the patient. Much less pain medicine is required. The cost is less," said Dr. Mathison.Here's how it works: A small balloon is placed into the nose to reach the blocked sinuses, then inflated to restructure the sinus opening. Dr. Mathison recently opened Karen's sinuses by using the new balloon procedure. He used an instrument with a tiny, lighted camera on the tip to pinpoint the swollen areas to open and apply a local anesthetic. The doctor then looked at the blocked sinuses on a monitor. For Harmon, you could even see the blockage on her face as the spotlight on the affected area shined through. Then it was time to begin the procedure itself using the balloon technique. The tiny balloon was inflated inside the nasal cavity, then quickly deflated. And just like that, one sinus area was opened. The process was repeated in the other nostril. Twenty minutes later, it was over, and Harmon was already feeling better. "I can breathe now through my nose where I couldn't before," she said.There is very little recovery time with this new procedure, saving sick time.
It's usually 24 to 48 hours, compared to a two-week recovery period for traditional sinus window surgery.
One study of large U.S. companies shows sinusitis as one of the top ten most costly conditions for employers, and a major reason people call in sick. More information on the procedure is available on the website of Entellus, the company that makes the balloon devices, as well as the website of the office where Dr. Mathison practices.