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Endoscopic sinus surgery

3-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.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

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.

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.

Illustration showing the sinuses.
The sinuses.

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.

If you use a nasal steroid spray for a long time, you can reduce the size of polyps (small growths which usually make the symptoms worse).

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 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?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clots

Specific complications

  • adhesions, where scar tissue forms deep inside your nose
  • damage to the bone around your eye
  • blindness
  • leak of fluid from your brain
  • double vision
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • 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 and 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.

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.

Last reviewed: September 2018

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