What’s all the fuss about Balloon Sinuplasty!?


Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.

William Pene du Bois, Twenty One Balloons

Balloon Sinuplasty. You may or may not have heard this term unless you are a sinus sufferer and seek out the latest information about treating sinus symptoms.

If you reside within (or within radio range) of any major metropolitan city in the U.S.A you have probably heard the term on the radio, seen it in print media, or even saw it on television.

Balloon Sinuplasty is a term describing the use of a balloon-catheter to dilate key openings in the sinuses in order to relieve sinus symptoms. Its not unlike angioplasty for blood vessels in the heart which has been around for quite some time now. In fact, if you go to the Videos section of this web-site you will find one on just this very subject (with my voiceover description).

So what’s the big deal?

Well for starters, it is a novel instrument to use in managing the small and convoluted anatomical spaces often narrowed or obstructed in patients with sinus symptoms. I have actually been using it from almost the beginning of its introduction. In fact, at one point I was contracted by the major balloon manufacturing company in the US to introduce the technology to other sinus surgeons thru on-hands training, proctoring and lecturing. Suffice to say, I know a lot about The Balloon.

So now that you know a little bit about what it is lets spend some time discussing what it isn’t. To that end, I need to let you in on the factors that have contributed to its increased prevalence and use. But first I want to illuminate, iterate and expound upon what it is..briefly.

What it is: An excellent technological advance in instrumentation for use in sinus surgery-procedures allowing for some surgeries-procedures to be done in the office safely and effectively to the benefit of many patients.

What it isn’t:  1. A procedure in and of itself. (its just an instrument or tool)

2. Only used in the office (its used every day by surgeons in the operating room performing sinus surgeries)

3. Magic.

So why do you hear so much about it? One reason is financial. Insurance pays the surgeon more (much more!) to do the same surgery in the office with the balloon versus in the operating room. In fact, its a different procedure code that is submitted to your insurance.  Unfortunately, this has clearly driven the marketing and the increased use of the balloon in communities nationwide. Keep in mind, I use the balloon in the office and I’ve billed this code when performing the procedure and I will continue to do so. I only mention it as a word of caution when you see, read and hear about the balloon and its benefits. Its not for everyone, but you’d think it maybe was based upon the volume of its use.

Its just an instrument or tool. And a good one at that.  It was likely used in surgery for those of you who have had sinus surgery in the last 5-7 years without you even knowing about it!

So that’s the whole story of the Balloon.

Jason B Sigmon, MD, FAAOA