In general, sinus surgery is fairly easy on patients and generally quite safe. As with any surgical procedure, there are complications that can arise related to the surgery. I will try to put them into perspective.
- The most common complication would be bleeding. It is not that rare for a patient to develop a nosebleed after surgery. There is always some bleeding, but when the bleeding is steady and threatens to become a significant amount, then something needs to be done about it. Usually packing material is placed against the bleeding site in the office, but occasionally patients will be best served by being put back to sleep and having the bleeding area identified and treated.
- Many times, sinus surgery is performed on infected sinuses. When the infection persists, this isn't really a complication of surgery, it is more like a disappointment. In some cases, sinuses or other nasal structures become infected after surgery when they were not infected before surgery. This can usually be handled with antibiotics.
- There are various reasons why sinus surgery might not give the desired results. Additional medical therapy may be needed or occasionally additional surgical procedures may be needed.
- The ethmoid sinus cavities are separated from the spinal fluid by a thin layer of bone. While removing infection, polyps, or opening sinus cavities, this bone can be breeched. This is a rare complication.
If this should happen and is recognized the leak is fixed at the time of surgery. Patients can expect to spend a night or two in the hospital for IV antibiotics. Generally nothing bad happens, but there are reports of this leading to meningitis or for leaks to be difficult to repair.
- There are reports of injury to the optic nerve, the muscles of they eye, the nerves that surround the eye, and the eye itself. I have never had a patient with this problem and I am not aware of it happening to any doctor in our community.
- The tear duct runs immediately in front of the maxillary sinus opening. Efforts are taken not to open into the tear duct. This probably happens fairly often, and nothing becomes of it. I am not aware of any patients with tearing problems after sinus surgery, but it has been reported.
- There are reports of people having changes to their sense of smell after sinus surgery. It is more likely to improve smell than to reduce it. I am not aware of any of my patient who lost their smell as a result of sinus surgery. Loss of smell from sinus problems, especially polyps, is common.
- A nasal septal deviation repair has a specific potential complication of causing a hole (perforation) that allows the left and right side to communicate. This is often without any problems, but it can crust, bleed, obstruct the airway, or whistle. I am only aware of one patient who had this as a result of a septoplasty I have performed, and the perforation was repaired.
- There is always some risk to being put under anesthesia. I personally only use M.D. anesthesiologists who I trust completely. You will have an opportunity to speak with an anesthesiologist prior to surgery to discuss your relative risks.