FESS stands for functional endoscopic sinus surgery. Since its beginnings in the early 1990s, this minimally invasive surgery is effective in removing sinus polyps and other types of abnormalities of the nose that cause significant breathing problems, including chronic sinusitis.

During FESS surgery, an ENT surgeon inserts an endoscope, a small tube with a camera attached, into the nasal cavity through a nostril. Utilizing the camera’s images, the surgeon can detect any abnormal tissue or polyps that are making it impossible for the sinuses to drain properly. The surgeon will remove or reposition these abnormalities with tiny, precision cutting instruments inserted into the nostril.

FESS procedures take place in a hospital or surgery center. A typical procedure includes:

  • Local or General Anesthesia: The patient is sedated so that no pain is felt during the surgery.
  • Insertion of Endoscope: The surgeon will insert an endoscope into a nostril that relays pictures of the nasal obstructions back to the surgeon.
  • Tissue Repositioning or Removal: Using these images, the surgeon will use small, precision instruments to reposition or remove nasal tissue or polyps that are interfering with proper nasal drainage. In special cases, the surgeon may choose to insert a spring-like implant called Propel into the surgery area. This device keeps the affected area open and releases a measured dose of cortisone to prevent polyps from reforming and reduce scar formation. The device dissolves over the course of a month.
  • Recovery: After the procedure, patients can expect to have minimal swelling and pain for about a week. Most patients will also experience congestion during this same time span. Patients typically return home on the same day of the procedure and report significant improvement in their ability to breathe after the recovery period. Most patients can resume normal activities a week after the procedure.

When Is FESS Surgery Performed?

FESS surgery is recommended for patients who don’t find relief from their chronic sinusitis after repeatedly trying conventional medications and taking many unsuccessful courses of antibiotics. FESS might be the right choice for you if you have one or more of these conditions:

  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal polyps
  • Four or more episodes of acute sinusitis a year
  • Chronic sinusitis that lasts for three months or more
  • Chronic sinusitis that is not cured by antibiotics or other medications
  • Enlarged nasal turbinates

FESS is not something your ENT takes lightly. Your ENT will take into account your overall health history, results of CT scans and prior treatment results before suggesting the procedure.

What Are the Benefits of FESS Surgery?

If you decide FESS is the best option for your chronic nasal conditions, you will experience many advantages over older, traditional sinus surgery. These advantages include:

  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Long-lasting results
  • Minimal pain
  • No outward scarring of nose
  • Few surgical complications
  • Little post-surgical bleeding
  • Less tissue removal