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Sinuplasty works in US, not India, say doctors

With Holi colours in the air and sinus cases on the rise, firms promoting the balloon therapy to cure sinusitis are out to woo patients, reports Jaya Shroff.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2008 03:03 IST
Jaya Shroff

With Holi colours in the air and sinus cases on the rise, firms promoting the balloon therapy to cure sinusitis are out to woo patients. They are calling it a revolutionary and a new age cure, but otorhinolaryngologists (ear-nose-throat specialists) are rejecting their claims by saying that it is an expensive and non-permanent cure for the ailment.

“Balloon sinuplasty may have helped people in the US but in India, the disease is of advanced nature. It is certainly not a cure for Indians,” said a specialist at AIIMS.

Sinusitis is one of the most common chronic health problems in India. Specialists say chronic sinus cases have seen a steep rise due to increased environment and vehicular pollution in recent years. Sinus could also be caused due to cold, allergy, infections and even virus, fungi, bacteria, toxic medications and nasal abnormalities.

Some promoting the expensive sinuplasty treatment also do not shy away from comparing it with angioplasty, in which a balloon catheter is inserted to open a blocked artery. Specialists, however, reject the comparison saying it is completely uncalled for. It is very important to understand that both the therapies are different. In angioplasty, it is an artery, a thick-walled, muscular, pulsating blood vessel which has to be cleared, but in case sinuplasty, it is a bony structure with inflamed mucous membrane lining the paranasal sinuses, four pairs of cavities that connect the nose to the throat, which have to be cleared.

Doctors say that not everyone who suffers from sinus needs to undergo surgery. “Medical therapy can help alleviate symptoms for 75 per cent of the patients, but sinus surgery is sometimes the best option,” said Dr KK Handa, associate professor of AIIMS.

“Balloon sinuplasty is used to open maxillary sinus but the same objective can be achieved by using the much cheaper and conventional endoscopic sinus surgery,” he said. The total cost of a sinuplasty operation may vary depending on the number of affected areas. Each balloon costs about Rs 10,000. So, in case six sinus affected areas have to be cleared, the cost of the surgery essentials can go up to Rs 60,000 with surgery costs extra. In the more widely practiced endoscope treatment, the patient only needs to bear the cost of surgery.

Dr RC Deka, head of ENT at AIIMS, had conducted a study in 2007 to find out which medication works well in sinus cases. The study, which was first conducted on 88 patients and is still on, showed that a combination therapy of anti-fungal spray and steroid spray have shown great results in curing allergic fungal sinusitis.