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New Treatment Balloon Sinuplasty May Help Sinusitis Sufferers

A new surgical procedure being trialed at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia may mean the end of blocked noses for the tens of thousands of Australians who suffer from sinusitis. The procedure is known as Balloon Sinuplasty and involves a minimally invasive technique for opening up blocked sinus passages and reduces the need for surgeons to remove tissue or bone.

The procedure is performed entirely through the nostrils using a flexible balloon catheter designed to navigate through the complex twists and turns of the sinus. The balloon is inflated to gently restructure and widen the walls of the blocked passageway, allowing the return of normal sinus functions.

Researchers in Melbourne have just completed a successful pilot study of 10 patients at The Alfred to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of the procedure. Significantly, the regulatory board in the United States has recognized the results of this initial trial and the new device has been approved in the US with Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons are now being trained in this technique.

The next phase of the trial, which will involve The Alfred Hospital and six major US centers, will evaluate the outcomes of the procedure. It will be performed on 50 Alfred patients who will be followed up at two, 12 and 24 weeks after their surgery.

Principal researcher and Alfred ENT surgeon, Dr Christopher Brown, said the surgery currently used to unblock sinuses sometimes resulted in scarring and involved a greater risk of complications compared to the Balloon Sinuplasty procedure.

“Because the brain is in close proximity to the sinuses, there is potentially a risk of injury,” said Dr Brown.

“The frontal sinus in particular can be challenging to many ENT surgeons and so any new developments are always welcomed.”

People involved in the trial have chronic sinusitis, however, depending on the results of the trial, the procedure may prove to be suitable for other sinusitis sufferers.

Sinusitis is very common. Health care experts estimate that 37 million Americans are affected by sinusitis every year. Health care workers report 33 million cases of chronic sinusitis to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually. In Australia, 15 percent of the population suffers from sinusitis.

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