Balloon Procedure Brings Sinusitis Relief

Minimally invasive approach opens narrowed sinus pathways.

By the time Marvin Hamlisch sparked a brief renaissance in the genre by rolling out his rollicking 1974 rendition of “The Entertainer,” Jean Paul Pelletier had already been playing ragtime piano for a few years.

Jean Paul Pelletier

Jean Paul Pelletier

“I also played classical piano,” Jean Paul states. “I played a lot of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin back then, but I really liked playing ragtime and wanted to be a piano player. My working career wound up going in a different direction, though.”

After starting out as a dishwasher, Jean Paul worked his way up in the food industry and eventually became a virtuoso in the kitchen, where he specialized in seafood dishes while working as a chef for fine dining restaurants in Massachusetts.

“I spent most of my time in Boston and Cambridge; I also worked for a few years on the islands up there, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard,” Jean Paul reports. “I was later recruited to Kansas City and spent about five years there working as a chef.”

Jean Paul, 72, wrapped up his career as a chef in Florida, where he worked for a couple of golf clubs before retiring a few years ago. Life in the Sunshine State hasn’t always been easy for this New England native, though.

“I suffer from seasonal allergies, and down here, with the 12-month growing season for a lot of different things, that can lead to a lot of congestion in my sinuses,” Jean Paul relates. “The bottom line is, I have a drainage problem, and it can get pretty tough sometimes.

“I wake up in the morning and it regularly takes me 20 or 30 minutes of hacking and coughing to get everything up and clear my head. It was so bad one time not long ago that I actually pulled a muscle in my side from all the hacking and coughing.”

Been Here, Done That 

This issue is not a new one for Jean Paul. He’s been dealing with sinus congestion since before he moved to Florida in 2005. When those sinus problems became acute a few years ago, he turned to the staff at Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat for help.

That’s where he met Daniel L. Rothbaum, MD, who explained to Jean Paul that the condition, sinusitis, can lead to sinus infections if the sinuses are not allowed to drain properly.

To allow for proper drainage in patients such as Jean Paul, physicians have two choices. One is traditional sinus surgery. The other is a minimally invasive procedure called a balloon sinus dilation that can be performed in the physician’s office.

On the advice of Dr. Rothbaum, Jean Paul opted for the latter several years ago. Recently, after his sinus problems reemerged, Jean Paul returned to Dr. Rothbaum and asked if he could perform the treatment again.

“With most patients, a single balloon sinus dilation procedure fixes the problem and nothing else needs to be done,” Dr. Rothbaum explains. “But there is always a risk that the sinus problem can reoccur, and that’s what happened with Jean Paul.”

Dr. Rothbaum says balloon sinus dilation is “a type of plumbing procedure” during which the patient’s “pipes,” or drainage pathways from the patient’s sinuses, are made larger through the simple insertion, inflation and removal of a small balloon.

“We start by giving the patient some medicine for relaxation and discomfort. We then administer a local anesthetic, and once that’s taken effect, we find the opening of the sinuses and gently insert the deflated balloon.

“Once the balloon is in place, we slowly inflate it. As the balloon inflates, it causes the drainage pathway to enlarge, which ultimately allows for better drainage of the sinuses because the pathway has been expanded.

“What’s really happening there is that expanding the balloon causes the bones that form the wall of the sinus pathway to get little microfractures. When these microfractures heal, the sinus drainage pathways now have a larger diameter.”

Following balloon sinus dilation, patients can typically return to normal activities much faster than after traditional sinus surgery.

Less Risk, Quicker Recovery

Traditional sinus surgery is performed under general anesthesia and involves the removal of bone and tissue to enlarge the sinus opening, clear blockages and restore normal drainage. The more aggressive surgery entails a longer and more difficult recovery.

“The thing is, most people don’t require that level of aggressive procedure to improve their sinus function,” Dr. Rothbaum informs. “That’s why we typically recommend the balloon sinus dilation, because it’s much easier for the patient.

“It is a minimally invasive way to treat the problem without the longer recovery, the greater risks and the discomfort of the more traditional sinus surgery. And it can make a dramatic difference in the lives of people like Jean Paul.”

Jean Paul says he’s breathing easier now and no longer spends the first part of his day clearing his sinuses. His concerns about sinus infections and discomfort have been alleviated, too.

“The drainage and everything else up there is much better,” he remarks. “But I knew it would be because this procedure worked the first time. Hopefully, it lasts even longer this time. But if not, I’ll have it done again.

“And there’s no question about who I’ll go to for the procedure. I’ll go back to Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat and see Dr. Rothbaum because I think he’s a very good doctor. I recommend them all, for sure.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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    • Atlantic Ear, Nose and Throat, P.A.

      Atlantic Ear, Nose & Throat is a comprehensive, full-service otolaryngology practice with offices in both Seminole and Volusia counties. In the practice, Devang Shah, MD, and Daniel Rothbaum, MD, combine surgical excellence with a compassion... Read More

    • Devang Shah, MD

      Devang M. Shah, MD, is board-certified in otolaryngology. Dr. Shah attended MIT as an undergraduate. After receiving his medical degree with honors, he completed his surgical internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Dr.... Read More

    • Daniel Rothbaum, MD

      Daniel L. Rothbaum, MD, is board-certified in otolaryngology. Dr. Rothbaum graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and earned his medical degree at the Yale School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency training at Joh... Read More