What are the risks of sinus surgery?

It must be emphasized, that the things listed below are rare, and that if surgery was discussed, your possible benefits from the surgery outweigh the risks. 

Surgery, like everything in life, carries with it some risks.  Your surgeon has spent years, including additional training in endoscopic nasal surgery, to minimize these risks.  Many patients have had previous endoscopic sinus surgery, and the risks of this procedure are no different from before.  Nevertheless, you should be aware of the risks so that you can make an informed decision. 

All surgeries carry the risks of bleeding, infection and pain.  The risk of bleeding increases with certain medications (see pre-operative instructions).   Occasionally, there is a significant amount of bleeding that would warrant an early termination of the procedure.  In these rare cases it is felt that since this is an elective procedure, the risks of a blood transfusion, and the risks of operating with the diminished visualization due to the bleeding necessitate stopping.

You will most likely be placed on antibiotics after the procedure to minimize the risk of infection.  The length of treatment varies, but ranges from 2-4 weeks.  However, in some cases an infection occurs despite antibiotic therapy.

Some scar tissue develops after any surgical procedure, and if this occurs it may obstruct the sinuses that have been opened.  For this reason, you will have several post operative debridements where clot and scar tissue will be removed.  Dr. Dubin routinely puts in very small packs (spacers and/or stents) that you will most likely not notice are there.  These will be removed at your first debridement.

It is possible that you may get some swelling or bruising around your eye after surgery as well as some tearing for the first week.  This is rare, however, and is exceptionally rare for the tearing to be permanent. 

The most serious, but fortunately rare, complications are due to the proximity of important structures to your sinuses.  These are chiefly your brain or eyes.  The risks include double vision, loss of vision, brain injury, leakage of spinal fluid and meningitis. 

In some cases it is necessary to straighten the septum in the middle of your nose (septoplasty) to gain access to the sinuses and/or relieve nasal obstruction.  This procedure carries with it the additional risk of a hole in the septum that would connect one side of the nose to the other.  It is rare for this to occur and is even rarer for it to cause a problem.  Very rarely, septoplasty can change the appearance of the nose or cause permanent numbess of the front two teeth.  It is common, however, to have some temporary numbess in a small area behind the front two teeth.

If you still have sense of smell, it is possible in rare cases that this may decrease or be lost.

Lack of improvement or worsening of your underlying condition, as well as the need for an additional procedure are risks that are inherent with any surgery. 

There are also the risks of anesthesia with should be addressed by the anesthesiologist.  This procedure is almost uniformly performed under general anesthesia.   Although this is exceptionally safe, it does carry with it the risk of cardiac event (heart attack), stroke, and even death. 

It must be emphasized again, that the things listed above are rare, and that if we have recommended surgery, it is our opinion that your possible benefits from the surgery outweigh the risks. 

* Note: The information contained in these pages is for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as individualized diagnostic and treatment advice.