I recently had endoscopic sinus surgery to relieve symptoms that I’ve been experiencing for a while. I spent so much of my time Googling the surgery (before and after the surgery) looking for answers to questions that I had. If you’re here, you’re probably looking into sinus surgery too!
Why Did I Get Sinus Surgery?
For about a year now I was getting sinus migraines, sinus pressure, pain and congestion I couldn’t relieve. I went to several board-certified allergists and they found nothing through multiple IgE and skin prick tests. They thought it could be nasal-specific non-allergic rhinitis. However, I was not getting relief, and using far too many Sudafed pills for my health. I was always taking Advil for headaches. Lastly, I’ve been snoring horribly since a year or more ago, and making super weird sounds like creaking doors or bubbles which usually indicate a sinus issue. Something had to change.
I finally went to an ENT that I found through a Facebook group for those with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I thought maybe it was a mast cell issue, if they couldn’t find anything else. Thankfully, this doctor was an incredible listener, and had an in-house CT scan. All but one of my sinus passages were inflamed. I also had a deviated septum and enlarged turbinates. He told me that I would definitely need a sinus surgery – and gave me an option for just doing a balloon sinuplasty in the office without general anesthesia or a full-blown sinus surgery under general anesthesia. Because of the deviated septum and enlarged turbinates, he suggested I would get the most relief from surgery. He also introduced me to the Latera implant to help my lateral wall collapse, and to help open my nostrils to get in the most air that I can.
So, in one big sinus surgery, my ENT did:
- a balloon sinuplasty dilation to open up my sinuses and drain them, flush them, and Culture any infection.
- balloon eustachian tubes dilation – to hopefully get rid of my tinnitus, ear fullness and ear popping issues I’ve had for years.
- septoplasty for the deviated septum
- turbinate reduction surgery to shave off some bones and open airways
- Latera implant by Stryker, like a permanent Breathe Right strip in my nose.
Sinus Surgery Recovery
What’s sinus surgery recovery like? Honestly, t’s not very painful, unless I accidentally touch my nose. I’ve had a hysterectomy, knee surgery, and several other surgeries and this one was pretty painless compared to those. The afternoon after my surgery, I had a lot of blood drainage in the first few hours, but it stopped after a day or two, and I only saw blood when I used a saline nasal spray as instructed.
An unexpected issue was with the tape used in my surgery (nothing to do with the actual procedure itself). The tape they used for my nasal drip pad gave me rashes (see face above) so I had to make my own modified non-tape drip pad out of a mask.
Breathing out of my mouth 24/7 sucked but in my case, it was only for a day or two, until I got used to the new breathing with surgical packing inside my nose.
After the first few days, recovery was much easier. I was lucky enough to not have splints in my nose. I just had dissolvable packing in my sinus cavity. Depending on your surgeon, you might have plastic splints in your nasal cavity, protecting your septum. If you have splints, you might have trouble breathing out through your nose and may have to breathe through your mouth for a few days. This may feel claustrophobic to some people. These splints will typically come out in a week or so after surgery at your follow-up appointment.
You’ll be instructed not to blow your nose, and to open your mouth while sneezing. Thankfully I was wearing masks due to COVID, so I could sneeze with an open mouth without judgement. It’s really hard not to blow your nose after this, it feels like you have a gallon of snot stuck up there – because you probably do.
The roof of my mouth was numb for a few weeks, and my cheek bones and my teeth ached. I wasn’t expecting that, but it makes sense because they went pretty deep back into my nasal cavities, and I’m sure there were nerves that needed my patience before they started working again.
Keep in mind that you’ll have weight limitations for lifting (no heavy weights!), and you’ll have to avoid exercise for about a week, and strenuous exercise until you are approved to do so – about a few weeks after. You shouldn’t keep your head down, like inverted yoga positions, or the blood will rush to your head, and it might cause swelling or a nose bleed.
Some patients are told to use saline spray or rinse after surgery, however, I was told that I couldn’t use a nasal rinse until after my follow-up appointment. During the first appointment, they basically just looked up there and made sure that things looked out, that I wasn’t bleeding still or having pain or any infection. Because I didn’t have splints, they didn’t get to take anything out.
The first time I did a nasal rinse, I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going to come out! Trust me, sometimes it’s better if you don’t look. A few times, something that looked like a deep sea creature came out of there. I was instructed to continue doing a nasal rinse 1-2 times daily until my 6 week appointment.
The follow up appointment, about 7 weeks after your surgical date, your physician will evaluate how you are healing and any further questions you have about recovery. Keep in mind that complete recovery takes much longer to heal on the inside of your nasal cavity and sinuses – mine quoted me about 3-6 months. Make sure you write down any symptoms you’re experiencing or questions that you might have in advance – so you don’t forget anything during your appointment.
At about 6 weeks post surgery, I would say that my snoring is 80% better than before. I still snore at times, like most people. The biggest difference is that I don’t get sinus headaches anymore, and I haven’t used Sudafed or Advil for a sinus headache since the surgery. I still feel stuffy, like I could use about 25% better openings in my airway, and I’m not sure if this is my new normal, or if my breathing will still improve over time as my nose continues to heal.
Latera Implant Recovery
While the Latera implant was part of my overall care plan, the recovery is slightly different than what you’ll go through with just septoplasty or sinuplasty. After surgery, and for a few weeks, my nose was too sore to touch because of my Latera implant. The nostrils up to the nasal bridge was sore if I touched them, smiled, laughed, or flared my nostrils. I could definitely feel the top of my implants if I touched my nasal bridge. It was so sore, I didn’t wear my glasses or sunglasses for a few weeks. I was also terrified that I would do something to permanently indent or change the implants position with my glasses – as they were very strict about not touching your nose around the implant site. It hurt to laugh or smile for a few weeks.
The Latera implant is still sore to an accidental movement now (about 7 weeks after surgery), especially if I touch my nostril in the wrong spot, or smile very big – as it scruntches up my nose and jars the implant slightly. I can definitely notice a difference already in breathing thanks to the implant, so I definitely think the pain is worth it.
According to Stryker, the Latera implant material is absorbed at around 18 months and is replaced by a collagen matrix. The relief continues to last for another 6 months or so.
This surgery is typically covered by insurance. My ENT submitted photographic and video evidence to the insurance company to get it covered by insurance.
Sinus Surgery Recovery Must-Have Products
Sinus Surgery Recovery Products: Keep Sinuses Moist!
After surgery, but before the stitches and packing are removed, you’ll want to keep the nose moist. This helps the sinus cavity to clear out, and to help the blood from crusting over in your nose! The first few days of sprays might be pretty gross, but by my fourth and fifth day, I was no longer seeing the spray turn red coming out of my nose. Some surgeons will have you do nasal rinses after surgery, so refer directly to your surgeon’s post-operative instructions.
Vick’s Sinux Saline Nasal Mist or Arm & Hammer Simple Saline Nasal Mist are must-have products to have on hand. Yes, I have a Neti-Pot, but with instructions to use a sinus spray every hour, refilling and re-making a warm Neti-pot for the few days after recover seemed too much work. I used one can of these a day – as I was to spray my nose every hour that I was awake. I purchased in bulk knowing that I could use them far after surgery – they’re always useful during allergy season and when our cats are shedding their winter coat.
When the internal stitches or packing is removed from your nose (and with the approval of your surgeon), you can use a nasal rinse instead of a nasal spray. For this, you can ditch plastic and use a ceramic Neti Pot, or buy a cheap (like under $12) or sinus rinse plastic container you’ll probably only use after this surgery. If you choose to buy a Neti Pot, remember that you’ll also have to purchase sinus rinse salt packets. These NeilMed Sinus Rinse packets are about $12 for 100, and again, will last past your surgery. You’ll want to use distilled or bottled water – do not use tap water with sinus rinses.
Sinus Surgery Recovery Products: Manage the Pain
Compared to other surgeries that I’ve had (like my hysterectomy or knee surgery), this surgery was pretty pain-free. However, it was one of the most annoying surgeries (hello sleeping upright and breathing through my nose only for how many days?!?!). I was able to manage the pain after surgery with just Tylenol and Advil – all over the counter dosages – every three hours until about day three. After day three, I was only taking one Tylenol every 6-8 hours if I felt any discomfort behind my nose in my sinuses. My nose still hurts to touch, but since I’m supposed to leave it alone because of the Latera implant inside, I don’t mess with it enough to cause pain. I had a bit of a sinus-type of headache, but again – nothing that OTC pain relievers and an ice pack couldn’t handle.
Hold up – IS TYLENOL GLUTEN FREE? Yes, Tylenol, specifically the Extra Strength Caplets, are gluten-free. They’ve even been tested by Gluten Free Watchdog in 2017 and tested under 10ppm. They are also found on GlutenFreeDrugs.com – a reputable source for gluten-free OTC and prescription medications.
You’ll also want to purchase a reusable ice pack for your face. Just make sure it doesn’t put too much pressure on your nose. If you use frozen vegetables, make sure you put a towel down between the package and your face.
Sinus Surgery Recovery Products: Manage Nausea
Post-Surgery nausea is no joke! Thankfully, I ask for Phenergan before I leave the hospital, because sometimes Zofran doesn’t cut it for me! Once I get home, I start by eating really plain foods like Schar crackers, apple sauce, or bananas. I don’t eat bigger meals until I know that my nausea is under control. My must-haves for at-home nausea relief are Sea-Bands and Tummy Drops! I keep the Sea-Bands on 24/7 until my nausea has worn off. I take the Tummy Drops when I am feeling a little queasy from the medication. I have these on call after every surgery or procedure that I had anesthesia. I also purchased some facial spray from Evian. While it’s just a spritz of cold water, it helped me from feeling under the weather.
I hope that this helps you better understand what you’re going to experience during a balloon sinuplasty, septoplasty and/or a Latera implant. Being prepared for your recovery with the right knowledge and the right products is crucial to a smooth and easy recovery.