Minimally invasive 'balloon sinuplasty' has a mom breathing easy again

Katia Boudouvas and her daughter, Anastasia, 2, spent most of this summer enjoying long days playing in the park. That’s not an unusual activity for a family but it wasn’t something Katia could enjoy for a long time.  

Boudouvas, 31, spent most of the past decade suffering from severe chronic sinus infections and the accompanying severe congestion and pounding headaches. Though treated with antibiotics, decongestants and steroids, she still got sick almost monthly. The bouts grew more frequent and severe after her daughter was born.

Through a friend, she was referred to the Cedars-Sinai Sinus Center, where she was examined by medical director Martin Hopp, MD.  Hopp, a pioneer in sinus surgery, determined that her problems could be cared for with a relatively new technique: balloon sinuplasty. It’s a tissue-sparing, minimally invasive option to treat chronic sinusitis. 

Boudouvas chose to undergo the procedure at Cedars-Sinai as Hopp and his colleagues are among the most experienced in the technique in Southern California. She hoped the treatment would relieve her of her severe headaches, congestion and infections.

Experts say an estimated 30 million people in the United States suffer from sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages. This infection can cause headaches, pressure in the eyes, nose and cheek area and often is accompanied by a cough, nasal congestion and fever. Those with allergies are more prone to the condition.

Chronic sinusitis can occur repeatedly and can last for months at a time. While antibiotics and other medications can address symptoms, surgery often is called for so the sinuses can drain normally.

Balloon sinuplasty employs a special balloon to gently enlarge the sinuses. Surgeons insert the deflated balloon into the sinus cavity, then expand it carefully, stretching the tissue. This technique is minimally invasive, preserves more tissue and takes less time than conventional surgery. Patients typically see immediate improvement and lasting results.

“Essentially, the balloon dilates or stretches the ‘door frame’ of the sinus tissue to make it wider, while the conventional surgery chips away at the frame,” Hopp explains.  

When a blockage isn’t reachable by balloon, the technique is often used in conjunction with conventional surgery. 

“This technique allows for much less tissue removal, shorter healing times, less scarring, and minimal post-operative discomfort as compared to traditional surgery,” Hopp says. “With the balloon, we can deliver the same result – less congestion, end of chronic infections and better overall health – but it’s much easier on the patient.”

Hopp leads the Sinus Center’s multidisciplinary team, which includes: ear, nose and throat specialists; allergists; pulmonologists; and radiologists. He teaches the balloon sinuplasty technique around the country and was the first surgeon in the Western United States to perform image-guided endoscopic sinus surgery. The Sinus Center offers complete diagnostic, treatment and management services for children and adults with nasal and sinus problems.