Curing sinusitis with a balloon

For the 37 million Americans who suffer from sinusitis, the only option used to be painful sinal drilling surgery.

Harlem native Diane Stevens, 46, dealt with chronic sinusitis symptoms like congestion, loss of smell and post-nasal drip for years – until her condition became too severe to ignore.

"Things had gotten so bad with me, I’m on the train regularly just reading a book and a woman looked over and said, ‘Are you ok? You're breathing so hard,’" Stevens said.

Now new technology offers patients a much less invasive alternative.  Sinal balloon dilation uses state-of-the art instruments to expand a balloon inside the sinuses, widening passageways without cutting or drilling, but giving the same results as traditional sinus surgery.

Dr. Nadim Bikhazi, an otolaryngologist at the Ogden Clinic, was the lead author on the first study comparing balloon dilation to the conventional technique.

"They did better in the short term, less nasal bleeding, quicker recovery back to work,” Bikhazi said. “In the long-term outcomes they did equally well, they had equal reductions in the number of sinus infections."

Patients are given local anesthesia during the 30-minute procedure and can return to work as quickly as the next day.

Most insurance companies cover balloon dilation, and the cost is just an outpatient co-pay.

"I'm inhaling, and I literally feel the air,” Stevens said. “I haven't felt that in 2 years, easy. So I feel good."