(WGN) — Struggling to breathe from sinus issues is a common plague for many people, and the options for repair include painful surgeries that often don’t work.

But now there is a simple option giving patients a chance for relief.

“Allergy medications can be tried and, when appropriate, antibiotics,” said Dr. Ryan Vaughn, an otolaryngologist with Exhale Sinus and Facial Pain Center. Nasal sprays and steroids are an option, but Vaughn said even those may not work in some cases.

“When those have failed, that’s when we start thinking about whether a procedure is something they would be a candidate for,” Vaughn said.
Pictures taken in a CT scan give doctors a clear view of what it will take to clear the sinuses. The images of Carol Temkin, a lifelong allergy sufferer, were bleak.

“It’s an indication to us there is unhealthy sinus functioning or sinus congestion,” Vaughn said. “(So) we’re actually going in to find that natural opening of the sinus and make that opening larger.” 

For that, Vaughn turns to technology used for decades to open clogged arteries to the heart.

“It’s really similar to the analogy of a heart artery and even the technology that we use,” he said. “So many patients become a candidate for what’s called ‘a balloon sinus dilation’ where we will use a balloon just like a heart artery can have an angioplasty. We’ll use that same balloon inside the sinus opening. And that will simply push the tissue out of the way. Once it does that, we can reestablish normal drainage. And with something like a dissolvable stent-like propel, it will actually prevent the sinus from shutting down.”

Sinus issues shut down Temkin’s chances of seeing her family. Doctors told her she would lose her hearing If she flew on a plane.

“The chances were great of losing my hearing,” she said. “I thought I have to do this (procedure). I have to try to get better quality of my life.”

“I literally just cried because my family is the most important thing to me. So not being able to go visit them in Colorado and Texas, I thought, ‘What am I going do?’” she said.

With her family in mind, Temkin decided to undergo the sinus stent procedure.

“She actually had four stents placed,” Vaughn said. “And so those four stents were placed strategically inside each of the sinuses that had inflammation to keep them open through the recovery process.”

“I feel much less pressure. I don’t have the sinus headaches that I had been having prior to surgery,” Temkin said. “So that part of it is better. And I actually just flew last week to visit my kids in Texas, and I did very well.”

“Ninety percent of patients, when they are treated with an endoscopic sinus intervention, they are going to be treated for the rest of their life effectively,” Vaughn said. “Not requiring a revision sinus procedure.”

“I am so happy that I made the decision,” Temkin said.

In most cases, the procedure is covered by insurance. There are some risks since the sinuses are so close to the eyes and brain. That’s why doctors use an image-guided technique to ensure accuracy.