Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Endoscopic sinus surgery

4-minute read

This page will give you information about endoscopic sinus surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is sinusitis?

Your sinuses are air-filled spaces at the front of your skull, between your eyes and above your upper jaw, that are connected to the inside of your nose. Sinusitis is an infection of the mucous membrane that lines your sinuses. It causes symptoms of pain, a blocked nose, discharge, reduced sense of smell and the feeling of mucus at the back of your nose or throat.

The mucous membrane that lines your sinuses produces mucus, which helps to keep the air you breathe clean, warm and moist. If the opening between a sinus and the inside of your nose gets blocked, the mucus gets trapped and can become infected.

Illustration showing the sinuses.
The sinuses.

This can cause the mucous membrane to become inflamed, causing it to swell and form extra folds in your nose and sinuses. These are called polyps (small growths) and usually make the symptoms worse.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to widen the passage between the sinus and your nose so that mucus no longer becomes trapped. This should prevent the sinusitis from coming back but your sense of smell may not improve.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Antibiotics may help to clear the infection.

If your sinusitis is caused by an allergy, you may be able to prevent sinusitis by avoiding the ‘triggers’ of your allergy or by taking medication such as antihistamines or a nasal steroid spray.

If you use a nasal steroid spray for a long time, you can reduce the size of polyps, which may mean that you do not need surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic can be used. The operation usually takes 1 to 2 hours.

Endoscopic sinus surgery is performed through your nostrils and does not result in any facial scars or change to the outside shape of your nose.

Your surgeon will use a small telescope (endoscope) to examine your nasal passages. They will use instruments to remove any polyps and to widen the passages from your sinuses into your nose.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this operation

  • adhesions, where scar tissue forms deep inside your nose
  • leak of fluid from your brain
  • damage to the orbit (the bone around your eye)
  • double vision
  • blindness
  • toxic shock syndrome, which is an infection of your bloodstream
  • damage to your tear duct
  • reduced sense of smell

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

If you had non-dissolvable packing in your nose, you will need to stay overnight and the packing will be removed the next morning.

Do not blow your nose for at least a week. Your nose will continue to feel blocked for a few weeks.

Your surgeon will give you a nasal spray or drops for you to use. You may be given a course of antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery.

Summary

Sinusitis is not usually serious but it can cause unpleasant symptoms. If medication does not help, endoscopic sinus surgery should help prevent the sinusitis from coming back.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Sinusitis - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses.

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Sinusitis (Chronic)

This article tells consumers about chronic sinusitis and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests they may need to have.

Read more on Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website

Sinusitis: symptoms causes and treatment

Because the drainage holes from the sinuses are narrow, they block up easily. So any excess mucus production can cause a blockage, and pressure builds up in the sinuses.

Read more on myDr website

Sinusitis in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses, with symptoms like pressure, pain or swelling under the eyes. If your child has sinusitis, it’s good to see a GP.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Sinusitis - Better Health Channel

If you suffer from sinusitis, it?s important to see if there is any trigger which can be treated.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Sinusitis and allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

The sinuses are cavities within the skull. They drain into the nose through small holes. Sinusitis means inflammation of the nasal sinuses. Sinusitis is most commonly short-lived, such as after a viral cold. Blockage of the drainage pathways, however, creates an environment that favours the overgrowth of bacteria resulting in long-term (chronic) sinusitis. Hayfever and polyps are the most common reasons for having recurrent or chronic sinus infection.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and sinusitis - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Allergic rhinitis, hay fever, sinusitis, pollen

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Other Allergic Conditions - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Other Allergic Conditions included: Urticaria (Hives), Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis), Allergic Conjunctivitis, Allergic Rhinitis (hayfever), Sinusitis

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Post-nasal drip: symptoms, causes and treatment - myDr.com.au

Post-nasal drip is the feeling of mucus moving down the back of the throat. You may get it if the mucus in your nose and sinuses becomes thicker or increases.

Read more on myDr website

Nasal polyps - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Nasal polyps are soft, jelly-like overgrowths of the lining of the sinuses. They look like grapes on the end of a stalk. They occur in around 1 in 200 people, mostly by the age of 40 years.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo