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Healthwatch 16: Balloon Sinuplasty

BLOOMSBURG — If you’ve ever had a sinus infection, you know how miserable it can be. Imagine getting one over and over and not getting much relief f...
HW sinuplasty

BLOOMSBURG -- If you've ever had a sinus infection, you know how miserable it can be. Imagine getting one over and over and not getting much relief from medication.

An ear, nose, throat specialist in Bloomsburg let us into the office to see a procedure he says has huge success rates.

A patient is getting ready to say goodbye to his recurring sinus infections, at Northeast Ear, Nose and Throat Associates in Bloomsburg.

"We did a cat scan and found out his drainage pathways are narrow from sinuses below eyes, inside his cheeks, and above his eyebrows," said Dr. Franklyn Gergits.

Dr. Gergits is an ENT specialist who started the practice 16 years ago. He wanted us to see a procedure called a balloon sinuplasty, cleared by the FDA in 2008.

Dr. Gergits says he was an early adopter because so often medication doesn't work in the long run.

"Sometimes the patients will be treated for multiple medical regimens and they'll get better in between, but they're still seeing their doctors 57 times per year."

One of those patients was Rick Dabulis of Bloomsburg, who says he had a sinus infection once a month for nearly his entire life before the procedure. Since then, he's had just one sinus infection in two years.

"I'm a masonry contractor working outside. You can't concentrate on what you're doing when you have something like that," Dabulis said.

He suffered the same symptoms so many people with chronic sinusitis report: facial pressure or pain, nasal congestion or a cough, ear pressure or pain, fever, and fatigue.

But unlike a sinus surgery -- a more invasive procedure done at a hospital under general anesthesia -- the balloon sinuplasty can be done at a doctor's office.

"A small catheter is advanced up the sinus cavity, and the balloon itself is inflated so it takes those drainage pathways and inflates them, changing the dimensions of the sinus track," Dr. Gergits explained.

The procedure is done under light sedation and with some pain medication, and takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

They're done on Saturdays and Dr. Gergits says there's no reason the patient can't go back to work on Monday.

Best of all, he says there's a 90 percent success rate eight years later.

"From November of last year to April of this year, I had seven sinus infections back to back and I was so miserable," said Sherri Schaich.

Schaich is sorry she waited so long to have the balloon sinuplasty done. She says she didn't know how awful she was feeling until she could breathe normally.

"I have not had a headache since the procedure in June. I have not had a headache since, a new thing for me, because probably the last four years straight I have had a headache every day.

Dr. Gergits says there are several possible causes of chronic sinusitis, including immune system issues, allergies, or simply the anatomical structure of your nose and face.

He also says while the condition can be seasonal, getting worse in the winter, many people suffer all year round.

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