Young woman gets relief from sinusitis with surgery and stent

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Nearly one in 10 Americans has chronic sinusitis. That's swelling and inflammation of the sinuses. When saline rinses and medications don't help, surgery can be an option. It's getting easier for many.

Dr. Stan McClurg uses a scope to see Emily McCann's sinuses.

"This is where the polyps were sitting before," Dr. McClurg says as he shows McCann her sinuses on a monitor.

McCann had chronic sinusitis all the way through high school into college. She had polyps and infection.

"Just kinda always with sinus pressure and just headaches, and then it would get really bad. Just not being able to breathe properly," she said.

She took antibiotics over and over only to have infection return. A few months ago, the Saint Luke's Hospital sinus surgeon went up the nose with instruments to clean out the polyps and infection.

In the past, patients would have the nose packed with gauze for several days after surgery.

"Afterward, you'd have to pull all that out and that's very uncomfortable for patients," Dr. McClurg said.

He says he's found packing isn't needed to reduce bleeding, and there is another way to prevent the scarring that can occur after surgery. He places a little stent called PROPEL in the sinuses to keep them open. The device is coated with medicine, a steroid.

"To decrease the amount of polyp regrowth and also it allows me, because a lot of ENTs (ear, nose and throat specialists) used to give oral steroids, now I no longer have to give the oral steroids," he said.

The stent dissolves in about 40 days. McCann noticed she was breathing easier immediately after surgery and months later, she's doing well.

"I sleep a lot of better. At school, it's easier to exercise. It's just great. My voice has actually changed a little bit," she said.

That's because she's not stopped up all the time.

The device increases the cost of sinus surgery, but Dr. McClurg thinks it can save money in the long run by reducing the need for repeat procedures.