What is Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 January 2020
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Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is a procedure used to treat chronic sinus problems. It involves clearing out excess cartilage tissue and sections of bone that obstruct the sinus cavities. When conservative medical care is not enough to treat nasal polyposis, chronic sinusitis, mucous cysts, or another disorder, the surgery may be a good option. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery is usually performed in an outpatient surgical center or an otolaryngologist's office, and it typically takes less than two hours to complete. After the procedure, patients generally experience significant symptom relief within a few weeks.

Before considering functional endoscopic sinus surgery, a doctor usually tries to treat recurring or chronic sinus issues with medications. If nasal sprays, decongestants, and anti-inflammatory drugs do not improve symptoms, diagnostic imaging tests are performed to check for deeper problems within the sinuses. After confirming the presence of a polyp or a severely inflamed sinus cavity, the doctor can suggest a consultation with a surgical otolaryngologist to discuss the benefits of the procedure.


Most surgeons prefer to use general anesthesia during functional endoscopic sinus surgery, but a patient's specific condition may make a localized anesthetic a better choice. Once the patient is sedated, a saline rinse is administered to clear the nasal passages. A long camera tube called an endoscope is then inserted into one of the nostrils and carefully guided through the nasal cavity. The surgeon views the camera feed on a monitor in real-time, allowing him or her to locate the problem and carefully inspect tissue along the way. Once the endoscope reaches the affected sinus, the surgeon can maneuver cutting tools through the tube.

A specialized scalpel or electric cutting device is used to cut away inflamed cartilage and carefully excise bone tissue. With pieces of bone and cartilage removed, the sinus cavity becomes significantly expanded. The surgeon inspects the surrounding tissue with the endoscope to check for infection and then withdrawals the instruments from the nostril.

Following surgery, the patient is brought to a postoperative monitoring room to recover from the anesthesia. If the nostril is bleeding, a nurse can insert a piece of gauze and provide a saline spray to take home. The patient is usually allowed to leave the surgical center the same day as the operation. A follow-up visit within a week or two is important so the surgeon can make sure the functional endoscopic sinus surgery was a success. In most cases, people are able to breathe easier and enjoy symptom-free days in less than a month.



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