March 04, 2012

Unnecessary Sinus Surgery

A well-respected ENT surgeon, Dr. Salah Salman, recently wrote a book, "Scrubbed Out," critical of the American health system with its links to corporation, powerful lobbies, administrators, and bureaucrats resulting in care driven by money rather than by medical necessity.

In particular, he focuses in one part of his book on endoscopic sinus surgery in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. The excerpt from the book is quite lengthy and I encourage anybody interested to read a lightly edited version here.

In essence, there are a few unscrupulous sinus surgeons who perform sinus surgery for every patient with facial pain and pressure even though there's no evidence for any chronic sinus infection whether on CT, endoscopic exam, and other objective testing.

Indeed, in my practice, perhaps only 10% (if not less) of patients with chronic "sinus" complaints actually have pathology related directly to the sinuses that merits consideration of sinus surgery. More commonly, symptoms suggestive of a chronic sinus infection are more commonly related to allergies and atypical facial pain syndromes (ie, migraines, sluder's neuralgia, contact point headaches, etc).

Unfortunately, in many physicians' minds including patients, if multiple courses of antibiotics do not resolve pan-facial pain/pressure, the sinuses must be horrible and something more aggressive geared towards the sinuses must happen.

And there's a few ENT surgeons willing to do just that... and mistakenly so.

It's not just ENTs, but allergists and infectious disease specialists who also may accommodate what the patient wants for treatment, even if it is incorrect.

If such patients see an allergist in the belief that their symptoms are due to allergies, they will get allergy testing and allergy shots.

If they see an infectious disease specialist, they will get antibiotics.

A much neglected specialist for patients with "sinus" problems are the neurologists given so many of these patients are actually suffering from atypical facial pain syndromes... but nobody (physicians, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, bureaucrats) gets paid much for this particular problem... and so it gets ignored.

Though sinus surgery has been abused in the past into the present, a more recent, highly reimbursed, and "sexy" sinus procedural development is balloon sinuplasty, also ripe for being abused.

Traditional sinus surgery and now balloon sinuplasty certainly have their place in the treatment of true chronic sinus pathology with astounding success, but only in highly selected patients.

As with everything, the right treatment in the right patient is the right way of doing things.

Book Excerpt: A Saga Of ‘Fishy’ Surgery For Chronic Sinus Trouble. WBUR.ORG March 2, 2012
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great article on FESS sinus surgery! Nice to see a dr interested in the patient and not just the money. I came out of my FESS surgery with severe facial pain, eustachian tube dysfunction, and a loss of taste and smell. As I researched, I realized there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people who are worse after their FESS surgery than before. As a patient, we can only learn so much, then we have to trust our drs.. We need more drs like Dr. Salman!

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