Open Range

Balloon technique clears blocked sinuses.

Avid bowler Diane Kirby knew something wasn’t right when she started feeling funny while bowling a frame at her favorite alley. She got the feeling every time she moved speedily, but it didn’t keep her from finishing her game. The problem only got worse for the semi-retired REALTOR®, and other symptoms appeared as well.

Without sinus headaches, Diane is enjoying all aspects of life.

Without sinus headaches, Diane is enjoying all aspects of life.

“I was having a lot of problems in my head,” Diane, an Indiana native, recalls. “My nose was always plugged, I was coughing up phlegm and I had severe headaches.

“The headaches felt the worst in the sinus area between my eyes. They weren’t pounding, but they were aggravating. I knew when I had one because my eyes hurt. I’ve had sinus headaches in the past, but these were worse than before.

“At the same time, I had congestion because my sinuses were clogged, and that made it difficult for me to breathe. I started taking over-the-counter sinus medicine.”

Diane admits to ignoring her symptoms at first, but as they progressed, her life became more and more uncomfortable, and the over-the-counter medicines weren’t helping. Eventually, the discomfort became bad enough for her to seek out her primary care physician.

“I’m one of those people who thinks, I’ll fix this later, so my problem was going on for probably two weeks before I finally went to my family doctor,” Diane relates. “He suggested I see an ear, nose and throat specialist. I said, How about Dr. Lanza? and he said, That’s who I recommend.”

Diane was already familiar with John T. Lanza, MD, a board-certified otolaryngologist at ENT and Allergy Associates of Florida, which has offices in Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce and Okeechobee. Dr. Lanza’s son and Diane’s grandson played baseball together on the team Diane’s husband coached.

A Perfect Storm

“When Diane came to the office, she was suffering from repetitive bouts of sinusitis, nasal congestion and other symptoms generally associated with chronically inflamed sinuses,” reports Dr. Lanza, who says geography is among the primary causes of sinus inflammation.

“We live in a sort of transition zone from the subtropical flora of South Florida to the southeastern flora of Northern Florida. That’s one issue. Second, we’re affected by trade winds that carry dust from overseas and drop it here.

“And finally, there’s a great deal of agriculture in the area, including grass farms. These three factors create an almost perfect environment for allergies, and allergic disease triggers sinus inflammation.”

Structural issues can cause blockages in the sinuses as well. With structural blockages, air doesn’t ventilate the sinuses properly, leading to a build-up of mucus. Mucus is an excellent medium for the growth of bacteria and mold, which can lead to repetitive infections and sinus inflammation.

Taking all those factors into consideration and in an effort to confirm his diagnosis, Dr. Lanza scheduled Diane for a CT scan. The scan showed numerous areas of obstruction in Diane’s sinuses that Dr. Lanza initially treated with medical therapy. When that failed to improve her condition, Diane and Dr. Lanza began discussing Balloon Sinuplasty.

Balloon Sinuplasty is a procedure to open up the natural openings of the sinuses. This alleviates the symptoms of chronic sinus problems such as headaches, congestion and recurrent infections.

It was first discovered by a cardiologist who gained extensive experience using balloons in treating coronary arteries in the heart. He later wondered if the technology could be adapted to other medical specialties.

A friend, a structural engineer who had been suffering from sinus problems, pondered its potential as a sinus treatment. Together, the duo developed the first sinus balloon company ten years ago.

After discussing the process of performing a Balloon Sinuplasty with Dr. Lanza, Diane felt confident in making the decision to proceed with the procedure, which can now be performed in a doctor’s office.

“What held us back previously was we didn’t have the ability to properly anesthetize the nose, but the evolution of that technology over the last five years has been nothing short of miraculous,” Dr. Lanza declares. “Now, we can topically anesthetize the nose to the point we can safely perform Balloon Sinuplasty on a totally awake individual right in our office.

“Candidates for the in-office setting are those patients who easily tolerate being anesthetized by their dentists. Those who don’t experience significant discomfort when we examine them and place our instruments inside their noses are also good candidates.

“When performing Balloon Sinuplasty, we first pass a guidewire through the sinuses,” Dr. Lanza explains. “Over the guidewire, we advance a catheter with a built-in balloon. We look for the tightest portion of the passageway, and we straddle the obstruction. We then inflate the balloon to open up the blockage.

“During Balloon Sinuplasty, we don’t cut and tear tissue. We make what we call microfractures of the surrounding bone. We take what was a one or one and a half millimeter opening and make it a six to eight millimeter opening.”

Easy and Speedy

Diane was asleep for the actual Balloon Sinuplasty, so she’s not privy to the degree of comfort during the procedure itself. She can, however, attest to the ease and speed of the recovery process afterward.

“I felt relief from my sinus symptoms right away the next day,” Diane marvels. “I went back to see Dr. Lanza a week after my procedure, and I was totally fine.

“I’ve had no problems since I had the procedure. Of course, I get a runny nose once in a while from a cold, but I haven’t had the sinus congestion, headaches, infections and coughing I had before.”

As they conversed while watching the baseball games together, Diane learned that Dr. Lanza is a compassionate man and a knowledgeable physician. Those feelings were confirmed when she became one of Dr. Lanza’s patients.

“Dr. Lanza is wonderful and more than knowledgeable,” Diane describes. “The first thing he did was order the CT scan that showed the infection that we treated with an antibiotic. That was critical because he told me that if we had let that go, it could’ve traveled to my brain.

“And when it came to the balloon procedure, he explained everything about it to me – what he would do during the procedure itself and what my results should be. He talked about the ease of the procedure, its risks and the dangers of not doing it.”

The results of Diane’s Balloon Sinuplasty are all she hoped for, and because she’s beyond satisfied with her outcome, she often tells others about the successful procedure. She also reports on her excellent encounter with Dr. Lanza at ENT and Allergy Associates of Florida.

“I recommend Dr. Lanza and his Balloon Sinuplasty all the time,” Diane enthuses. “I tell my friends if they’re having sinus problems to go see Dr. Lanza because my experience with him was wonderful.”

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