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New office procedure alleviates chronic sinusitis

BAXTER – For people who suffer from chronic sinus problems, life can seem miserable.

They’re always congested, often with sinus pain and pressure.

Antibiotics and decongestants may help for a time, but it may seem like they never fully get better.

Now there is a procedure treating chronic sinusitis available in the Brainerd lakes area that requires only a simple office visit.

Dr. Kurtis Waters, an ENT and board-certified facial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has a practice at the Riverstone Professional Center in Baxter, has been performing balloon sinuplasty procedures since May at his office.

While he continues to use a similar procedure on patients at the Baxter Surgery Center as he has for nearly two years, patients do not need to be put under. With new, refined techniques it can be done in an office setting with numbing medication.

Waters said there are still some cases where a patient may need to have a procedure performed at the Surgery Center, but this is a nice alternative for those who may feel more comfortable having it done in an office visit.

Katie Starns, nurse practitioner, also sees chronic sinusitis patients and assists with the balloon sinuplasty procedures. She said chronic sinusitis patients are often simply tired of being sick.

“By the time they arrive on our doorstep, they’re looking for a remedy,” said Starns. “They can feel fatigued. Their body is constantly fighting infections.”

Freddie Barbeau, Baxter, had been suffering from chronic sinus problems for the past 30 years. In early September she underwent a balloon sinuplasty procedure with Waters at his office. One week later, Barbeau, 80, said she was amazed at how well she felt. Her chronic facial pain was gone and she didn’t wake up in the morning with a dry mouth.

“I am very pleased with the results,” Barbeau said a week after her procedure. “Each thing he did he explained what he was doing and was very kind and very thorough. It had been difficult to breathe and had gotten progressively worse in the past five years to the point where something needed to be done. ”

Waters said when a patient comes to his office for the first time, the patient will undergo an exam and a history will be taken. Often a CAT scan will be ordered to look for infection in the sinuses. The patient may need a round of antibiotics and decongestants to see if that will help before the balloon sinuplasty is considered.

According to Acclarent, the developer of the balloon sinuplasty procedure, studies have found that up to 60 percent of chronic sinusitis patients are not successfully treated with medication. Clinic studies have found that sinus symptoms improved in 95 percent of patients who had balloon sinuplasty at an average follow-up period of nine months and significant improvement was observed out to two years later.

Balloon sinuplasty involves inserting a specially-designed catheter into the nose to reach the infected and inflamed sinuses. A tiny balloon is slowly inflated, which widens and restructures the walls of the sinus passages without any cutting and minimal bleeding. The balloon is then removed, leaving the sinuses open and the mucus to drain.

A small lighted scope paves the way for entry into the sinuses, lighting up the patient’s cheek a bright pink to let Waters know that he is in the sinuses and ready to inflate the balloon.

The procedure allows patients to quickly resume normal activities. Waters said patients sometimes need some pain medication after the procedure but some don’t.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox to treat chronic sinusitis,” explained Waters. “It’s not for everyone but it’s an option.”

■ JODIE TWEED, a former Brainerd Dispatch reporter, is a freelance writer living in Pequot Lakes with her husband, Nels Norquist, and three daughters.