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Breathing Easy: Solving Sinus Problems Can Improve Your Quality Of Life

February 1, 2024

Breathing Easy: Solving Sinus Problems Can Improve Your Quality Of Life

Have you ever been stuck in a constant cycle of sinus problems, cold symptoms and antibiotics – but couldn’t find real, long-lasting relief? Rick Basala knew that miserable feeling. As a junior high principal from Iowa, Rick said he could work through it, but after eight years of the same cycle, he decided to do something about it.

“I was tired of dealing with it. I would go to a clinic and get diagnosed with a sinus infection,” Rick said. “But I never knew the root of the problem.”

Rick got an answer when he turned to the experts at ENT Professional Services, P.C. located on Dexter Court in Davenport. The team at ENT Professional Services utilizes the most-up-to-date treatments and technologies to diagnose and treat disorders of the ear, nose and throat. When surgery is needed, ENT physicians mostly work with Mississippi Valley Surgery Center (MVSC), the area’s largest outpatient surgery center, located in Davenport.

Dr. Jay Burmeister, a physician specializing in otolaryngology, discovered several problems that could be causing Rick’s discomfort and infections.

“It was a pretty complicated list of issues, but Dr. Burmeister made it seem easy to treat,” Rick said. “He was very helpful in explaining it to me, and I felt very comfortable with what he recommended.”

The Full-House “FESS”

When Dr. Burmeister first meets a patient, he believes in starting with a conservative approach, encouraging treatments such as nasal saline or steroid sprays. If that doesn’t help, a CT scan can reveal if there are bigger problems like sinusitis or polyps. Patients like Rick develop sinusitis when the tissue that lines the sinuses becomes inflamed, trapping mucus and often causing infections. Nasal polyps, or growths that line the nasal passages, have the same effect.

“Most primary care doctors don’t have the tools to actually look in the nose very well,” said Dr. Burmeister. “But we know something that feels like just a cold to the patient could include an underlying anatomical problem that we can fix with outpatient surgery.”

In Rick’s case, Dr.  Burmeister diagnosed him with a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates (bony structures inside the nasal cavity) and chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps. All of these issues were impacting Rick’s ability to breathe clearly and causing the chronic infections.

Dr. Burmeister recommended FESS – functional endoscopic sinus surgery, plus septoplasty and turbinate reduction. Performing the procedure at MVSC, Dr. Burmeister opened the sinuses by carefully removing polyps, straightening the septum and reducing the size of the turbinates.

Taking that first breath

Rick was able to go home to start his recovery just a few hours after the surgery. After another full day of rest at home, he felt well enough to return to work. Dr. Burmeister says patients can usually expect their discomfort and congestion to significantly improve about 7 to 10 days after surgery.

For Rick, the biggest difference came the day of his first post-op appointment when the splints were removed from his nose.

“I still remember my first breath after they were taken out,” Rick said. “It was incredible, like the feeling of air touching my brain for the first time ever. I could tell the difference in airflow and how clear my nasal passages felt.”

Following surgery, patients are encouraged to keep using nasal saline to keep the passages clean during the recovery. Full recovery typically comes about three weeks after surgery. For most, there is a minimal chance of the problems recurring, but patients with polyps should take steps to keep them from coming back, including allergy testing and treatment tailored to the patient’s needs.

Overall, Dr. Burmeister says at least 80% of patients will report significant improvements in their quality of life. Rick’s only regret is not having the procedure done sooner.

“I feel like I’m more energized,” Rick said. “I’m thinking clearer, and I’m way healthier than before.”

Those are the results that motivate Dr. Burmeister.

“I love asking patients how they’re doing relative to how they felt before the surgery,” Dr. Burmeister said. “When they’re happy, that is a good feeling.  For some patients, they haven’t been able to breathe through their nose for years. Watching them take that first breath is very rewarding.”

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