Breathing Freely with Balloon Sinuplasty

Ever since she was in grade school, Jennifer Zhao can remember getting tension headaches. About 25 years later, not much had changed, except she was also experiencing breathing issues.

During a visit to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat/Otolaryngology) physician, she learned she had severe sinusitis and enlarged nasal turbinates. (the vascular, spongy tissue lining the nasal passageways). However, even after undergoing surgery to reduce the turbinates, she was still struggling with her breathing.

Nasal steroid sprays offered temporary relief, but did not provide a long-term solution. Additionally, using them multiple times a day can be an inconvenience. Hence, Jennifer sought a noninvasive solution.

Balloon Sinuplasty: A Noninvasive Chronic Sinusitis Solution

In her pursuit for a noninvasive answer to her sinus difficulties, Jennifer made an appointment with Dr. Gregory Levitin, an Otolaryngologist at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, who specializes in the nonsurgical management of chronic sinusitis and nasal obstruction. What distinguished Dr. Levitin from previous Otolaryngologists she visited, was his insightful understanding of her longstanding issues.

“He asked if my sinuses changed with the weather, which was the first time an ENT asked me that,” Jennifer recalls. “[From there] I felt like he really understood the situation I was experiencing all these years, plus the nasal issues that had recently occurred.”

Jennifer kidded with Dr. Levitin that for years she could predict rainy weather nearly three days in advance of the precipitation event, due to her headaches and congested sinuses.  After reviewing her CT scan, Dr. Levitin advised about a Balloon Sinuplasty procedure, which is a minimally invasive office procedure that has been successful in treating chronic sinusitis for over 15 years. Performed in the office under just local anesthesia, the procedure opens up inflamed and blocked sinus passageways without any incision—offering a faster recovery time and fewer side effects than traditional sinus surgery.

“The whole journey happened quickly,” Jennifer notes. “Dr. Levitin, who has a terrific bedside manner, and his staff were great with explaining the process and aftercare to me. The procedure only took about an hour, and the team saw me weekly afterwards, as the healing process involves some initial congestion for a few weeks. Later I could feel the pressure decreasing on the valves and the sinuses opening up.”

Breathing Benefits Post Balloon Sinuplasty

Immediately after the balloon sinuplasty, Jennifer describes the nasal relief clearly. “I remember the distinct sensation when they removed the balloon. I felt air in both sides of my nose that I had never experienced prior to the procedure.” It was like taking a deep, uninterrupted breath for the very first time.

Several weeks later, she also noticed her tension headaches had disappeared, which she describes as a “huge plus” after undergoing balloon sinuplasty. In addition to the absence of headaches, another tremendous benefit surfaced. “I also feel myself sleeping more soundly now. I wasn’t breathing properly for years, so it is a wonderful sensation to not have to breathe through my mouth during the night.”

Now even her exercise routines have improved. “I do incline walks, and I used to get very exhausted breathing through my mouth. However, since the balloon sinuplasty, I’ve been able to breathe through my nose and workout more often and more efficiently.”

Jennifer advises patients experiencing chronic sinus and headache to consider non-surgical options first. “The balloon sinuplasty is an excellent option to explore early in the pursuit of breathing freely,” especially if they are unsure of which path to choose,She added that onecan always still undergo a septoplasty or turbinate surgery after balloon sinuplasty if needed. Her only rainy weather issue these days is sometimes forgetting the umbrella, as her sinuses and headaches are no longer able to predict the weather.