Balloon sinuplasty in particular has been revolutionary in the surgical treatment of chronic sinusitis. Though sinus surgery normally is performed under general anesthesia, balloon sinuplasty now allows this operation to be performed awake WITHOUT sedation using local anesthesia only.
At its essence, sinus surgery "opens" up blocked sinus cavities to allow drainage and ventilation. Traditional sinus surgery "removes" tissue to accomplish this goal whereas balloon sinuplasty stretches open the sinus cavity without the need for tissue removal.
Given the lack of tissue removal with balloon sinuplasty, there is less pain and faster recovery after the procedure.
What are the steps?
Under endoscopic guidance, the balloon catheter is introduced into the nasal cavity and guided towards the target sinus cavity opening. Depending on the system used, a sinus guidewire or sinus illumination may be used to help with the guidance.
Once the sinus balloon catheter is correctly positioned across the blocked sinus opening, the balloon is gradually inflated to stretch open the ostia.
After several seconds, the sinus balloon catheter is then deflated and removed leaving an enlarged sinus opening allowing for the return of sinus drainage. There is little to no disruption to mucosal lining.
Of course, not all patients are candidates for balloon sinuplasty, let alone this procedure to be done awake with local anesthesia alone.
In particular, balloon sinuplasty can only address blockages involving the frontal, maxillary, and sphenoid sinus cavities. Ethmoid sinus cavities can NOT be corrected using this method.
Also, balloon sinuplasty does not allow for tissue biopsies (by definition, the advantage of balloon sinuplasty is the lack of need to remove any sinus or nasal tissues). As such, if there are any masses present including nasal polyps, traditional sinus surgery is the better way to go.