What are the sinuses?
The sinuses are a connected system of hollow cavities in the skull. The largest sinus cavities are about an inch wide. Others are much smaller. They’re lined with soft, pink tissue called mucosa. Normally, the sinuses are empty, except for a thin layer of mucus.
Otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon Mr Florian Bast talks to us about sinuses, the Eustachian tube and the role of balloon technology to treat blocked sinuses and Eustachian tube dysfunction.
Are diseases of the sinuses common?
Diseases of the sinuses are common and chronic sinusitis is one of the most common chronic healthcare problems in the UK, affecting 9 million Brits annually. Sinusitis significantly impacts patients both physically and emotionally and takes a toll on their quality of life.
Beside chronic sinusitis, there is a risk of developing barosinusitis of the paranasal sinuses (air-filled spaces located within the bones of the skull and face) for anyone exposed to ambient pressure changes. Barosinusitis is characterised by inflammation of one or more of the paranasal sinuses. Inflammation is caused by a change in pressure between the sinus cavity and the surrounding environment.
Ambient or barometric pressure changes can result from mountain climbing, flying, or deep sea diving. Endoscopic balloon dilation is the best and safest treatment option for anyone suffering from barosinusitis.
What are the Eustachian tubes?
The Eustachian tubes connect the post nasal space with the middle ear.
The Eustachian tube is responsible for:
- Pressure equalisation and ventilation of the middle ear
- Protection of the middle ear (from sounds, pathogens, and secretions from the nasopharynx)
- Drainage of the middle ear
If there is a problem with the Eustachian tubes, especially an obstruction (during barometric pressure changes), this results in faulty pressure conditions in the middle ear.
This can lead to:
- Unpleasant sensation of pressure or fullness in the middle ear
- Hearing problems and tinnitus
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Chronic middle ear infections, with or without cholesteatoma
What is balloon technology and how is it used in ENT?
A small, flexible balloon catheter is placed into the nose to reach the sinuses or the Eustachian tube. Similarly to dilating a blocked heart vessel, the balloon catheter is gradually inflated and gently dilates the sinunasal passage or Eustachian tube to unblock it. After this procedure, normal functioning and drainage are restored.
How can balloon technology treat blocked sinuses/Eustachian tubes?
Until recently, sinus treatment has been limited to medical therapy or conventional surgery, including functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS). The balloon dilation technique is a minimally invasive technique for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and barosinusitis.
The aim of balloon sinus dilation is:
- to provide relief from uncomfortable and painful sinusitis symptoms
- to unblock sinuses without invasive surgery
Endoscopic balloon dilation for Eustachian tube dysfunction is the first technique that truly treats the cause of the symptoms experienced, and recent studies have shown greater symptom improvement in comparison with other medical treatments.
To know more about balloon sinus dilation to solve sinus problems and dysfunctional Eustachian tubes, visit Mr Florian Bast.