Traditional Sinus Surgery:
Enlarge Drainage Cavities

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Goals

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) is a surgical procedure used by ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons in some chronic sinusitis patients to improve sinus drainage by enlarging the drainage pathways.

This is most often achieved through the surgical removal of nasal structures and expansion of sinus ostia, the natural openings of the sinus. While FESS involves the removal of some existing structures in the nasal passageways, ENT surgeons work to preserve the lining of the sinus, called mucosa, because it plays an important role in drainage.

Balloon sinus dilation, in addition to being a stand alone procedure, is often used in combination with traditional sinus surgery tools as a part of a FESS procedure.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Procedure Overview

The exact procedure used by an ear, nose and throat surgeon depends on a number of factors, including the specific anatomy of the patient. Should your doctor recommend traditional sinus surgery, you should feel free to discuss procedure specifics with them at that time - including what instruments will be used, which structures may be removed, recovery, risks, and any other questions you may have.

You can view typical sinus surgery procedures on, an independent site that collects video footage for the purpose of physician and patient education.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Recovery

Traditional sinus surgery is an outpatient surgery performed under general anesthesia in an operating room or at a surgical center. Some experiences typical of traditional sinus surgery recovery include:

  • Nasal packing to control bleeding - removed by doctor one week after surgery
  • Frequent irrigation of nasal cavities to avoid crusting
  • Return to full range of normal activities, including exercise, three weeks after surgery

If you choose to explore traditional sinus surgery, you should discuss recovery with your doctor.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Risks

There are a number of potential risks to undergoing traditional sinus surgery, including but not limited to, excessive bleeding, cerebrospinal fluid leak, intraorbital complications, and a failure to resolve sinus conditions.

When considering treatment options, you should discuss the risks of all treatment options with your doctor. Be sure you understand potential risks.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Alternatives

For some patients, balloon sinus dilation may be an effective alternative to traditional sinus surgery. Balloon sinus dilation is an in-office procedure performed under local anesthesia, in which a small balloon is used to reshape the sinus and nasal drainage pathway anatomy, delivering instant relief that lasts. 90% of patients return to normal activity within 48 hours of the procedure.