Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS)

Sinuses and Sinusitis

Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the bones of the face and head. They are connected to the inside of the nose through small openings. The sinuses are important in the way we breathe through the nose and in the flow of mucus in the nose and throat.

When the sinuses are working properly we are not aware of them but they often are involved in infections and inflammations which cause symptoms. These infections and inflammations are called sinusitis. Sinusitis is caused by blocked, inflamed or infected sinuses. Patients will often complain of a blocked nose, pressure or congestion in the face, runny nose or mucus problems. Other symptoms include headache and lose of sense of smell. Sinusitis can be difficult to diagnose and your specialist will want to examine your nose with a telescope in order to help find out what is wrong. Most patients with sinusitis get better without treatment or respond to treatment with antibiotics or nose drops, sprays or tablets. In a very small number of patients with severe sinusitis an operation may be needed. In rare cases if sinusitis is left untreated it can lead to complications with infection spreading into the nearby eye socket or into the fluid around the brain. These very rare complications are just some of the reasons that a sinus operation may become necessary.

What is endoscopic sinus surgery or FESS?

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery is the name given to operations used for severe or difficult to treat sinus problems. In the past sinus operations were done through incision (cuts) in the face and mouth but endoscopic sinus surgery allows the operation to be performed without the need for these cuts. Before any operation patients will be treated using drops, tablets or sprays for a period of weeks if not months. Only if these treatments are unsuccessful will an operation become necessary. After an examination of your nose with a telescope your surgeon will discuss whether or not you will need to have a CT scan to help decide about the need for an operation.

What if I don’t have the operation?

Endoscopic sinus surgery is only one approach to the treatment of sinusitis. Endoscopic sinus surgery is as safe, and possibly safer, than other methods of operating on the sinuses.

The other methods of operating on the sinuses involve cuts in the face or mouth and if you feel that this maybe more appropriate in your case you should discuss this with your surgeon. In some patients an operation can be avoided by use of antibiotics and steroid medicines, again this should be discussed with your surgeon.

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