12 Most Common Problems After Sinus Surgery
Chronic sinus problems can cause pain and misery, and if medications aren’t effective enough, your doctor may recommend sinus surgery. Depending on the cause of your blockage, your doctor can remove infected, swollen, or damaged tissue, excess bone, or nasal polyps. By taking out these obstructions, it makes it easier for mucus to drain and help you avoid further issues. Very rarely, other cases such as a deviated septum may require sinus surgery as well.
Surgery can help you achieve long-term relief from sinusitis symptoms, there are two types of sinus surgery we commonly use which are Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS) and Balloon Sinuplasty.
However, problems after sinus surgery can occur in some instances. I’m here to explain some of the common problems after sinus surgery, and how you can minimize these risks.
Complications Linked to Sinus Surgery
Sinus surgeries, like any procedure, carry some potential risks. Sometimes, these complications are actually expected results of sinus surgery and can be solved with some rest and medicine. These include the following:
- Minor bleeding is normal up to 48 hours after surgery. It’s usually just leftover blood from the surgery, and letting it drain out may actually be important.
- There might be some pain, usually in the form of sinus headaches, up to 24 hours after surgery. Patients are issued medication to relieve these symptoms.
- Mild swelling and congestion are also to be expected, as your body adjusts to your newly cleared sinuses. These two complications are often tied to minor bleeding.
- The wound might heal into scar tissue. If you wish to avoid this, I can recommend minimally invasive procedures such as closed rhinoplasty.
- An often overlooked complication is bad breath. The nose and mouth are connected, and the healing process often involves shedding away dead skin. Brush your teeth often, and consider mouthwash as well.
In some cases, however, severe complications may crop up days or even weeks after surgery. These will require revision surgery in order to heal. Below are some examples:
- Hemorrhaging, or major bleeding can occur soon after surgery. For milder cases, I recommend inserting some nasal packing for 2-4 days; these packs are removed afterward. More severe cases may require a blood transfusion, followed by revision surgery in order to close any wounds.
- Invasive organisms may sometimes enter the bloodstream via the healing wound. These sinus infections must be treated with stronger antibiotics before they become life-threatening.
- A rare complication is an orbital emphysema. This may occur when sneezing while the surgery wound isn’t fully healed. The air is forced into the eye socket and causes bruising from the inside. I recommend a revision surgery in order to fix the surgery wound as well as emphysema.
- Sudden numbness may indicate damaged nerve endings. It’s rare, but an incorrect dose of general anesthesia may cause this permanent condition.
- Brain and spinal fluid may flow out through the surgery wound during rhinorrhea. While rare, immediate surgery is recommended to correct this.
- Sinus surgery may lead to changes in your sense of smell and taste. This is permanent, for better or for worse, and can appear up to several weeks after surgery.
- And finally, sinuses can grow back or move back to their original positions. This requires revision surgery if the sinuses cause previous issues once again, such as mucus blockages.
Avoiding Complications After Sinus Surgery
There’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of problems after sinus surgery. However, there are steps you can take both before and after surgery to minimize any risks of complications.
- Have the operation done by a board-certified surgeon. Their skill will ensure minimal complications arise after surgery.
- Obtain your health information in order to be aware of any existing conditions that may affect you post-surgery. For example, a diabetic will have a much worse time with bleeding.
- Work together with your surgeon to ensure that your recovery period is best suited to your particular needs.
- Avoid aspirin two weeks before surgery.
- Control your sneezing as much as possible. At best, it can cause bleeding. At worse, the tissue surrounding the sinuses get damaged.
- Do not blow your nose. The pressure from blowing can easily open up wounds and cause bleeding.
- Avoid using nasal sprays up to two weeks after surgery. The fluid may make healing harder.
- Avoid aspirin up to two weeks after surgery.
- Make sure you learn how to perform sinus irrigation properly. This allows you to remove any debris in the wound, and avoid complications.
- Avoid too much stress in your nasal area. This includes heavy exercises and physical impacts on your nose.
- Make sure you fulfill your post-op visits. Constant updates on your healing process ensure that you and your surgeon are both aware of the status of your recovery. This awareness minimizes the risk of further complications or allows you to detect them early enough to avoid the worst.
- If something has already happened, make sure to address it as soon as possible. The sooner the complications are taken care of, the better. Waiting too long may lead to more problems appearing due to previous complications.
Complications Happen, but They Can be Avoided
Steps can be taken to avoid complications after surgery, but they can still happen. Even in the United States, some minor risks such as bleeding and swelling are completely normal. Most other risks, however, are avoidable with some self-discipline and some help from your surgeon.